The short: 3/5 ✦. A refreshing take on children’s literature, with difficult issues wrapped up in a magical adventure.
I think the best children’s books are the ones that everyone can enjoy, especially for parents who read to their kids. The plots may be simpler, the characters singularly focused, and the words easy to understand, but a good story is a good story, no matter who the target audience is. And I think Switch works on that level.
I’ve read the first two “Savvy” books, each of which can stand alone as its own story. I liked Scumble better than Savvy, but all three novels are unique in that they are ostensibly written for children and have fantastical elements, yet deal with difficult themes in a very real, honest way.
Switch features a relative who suffers from Alzheimer’s and also discusses growing up and what that really means. Gypsy, the main character, is upset that her old friends don’t want to play with her because they consider her to be a baby. This hurts her more deeply than she expects, and the running theme throughout the whole book is about accepting who you are. That’s a rather simplistic way of putting it and even Law doesn’t put it in that exact phrase. It’s a wonderful case of showing not telling, though as a traditional children’s book heroine, Gypsy overtly and clearly thinks about what is happening and how certain situations are influencing her. When all is said and done, Gypsy realizes how much she has learned over the course of their adventures (and there’s quite a lot, surprisingly!) and how it all tied in with her new savvy.
The savvies are always interesting, though it was not explained in any way why the titular switch happens, though of course it all turns out for the best. (Way to go, Samson!) The writing itself is pretty strong, and again, Law doesn’t simplify the themes, just the language. I recommend the entire Savvy series for any ages, though particularly for the middle grade set.
Header image: Switch by Ingrid Law, published September 1st 2015 by Dial Books.