Age: Middle Grade, Ages 8-12
When I stop in at Starbucks, I sometimes grab one of the cards they give away with a code for a free song on iTunes. On my last trip to Starbucks, I saw the cards and was surprised to find that they were not giving out a song this time around, but an e-book. The cover showed a young girl looking up at a very tall tree and the title “Sway.” Since it was free, I thought I’d give “Sway” a try, and I read my first book entirely on an iPhone. I thought it would get super annoying to have only small amounts of text at a time on the screen, but after a few pages, I didn’t even notice and got wrapped up in the story instead. All 894 tiny pages skipped by as I followed ten-year-old Cass and her emotional and physical journey discovering magic and the truth about her family.
Cass thinks her mom, Toodi Bleu Nordenhauer, is the biggest hero there is, and she wants to be just like her. Toodi helps rescue people who are in danger following natural disasters, which unfortunately means she is away from home a lot. Cass just knows her mom is going to take her along on her next rescue mission and train Cass to save people, too, but when her mom comes home she has a different surprise instead: she is moving to Florida to be part of a different family. Cass doesn’t understand, and she and her father are left shattered. But soon her dad comes up with a new plan for them involving a beat-up old motor home nicknamed “The Roast,” a suitcase, and a bunch of old slivers of soap that just might contain the magic they need to get their lives back together.
Author Amber McRee Turner has created a very likable character in Cass, a girl with a lot of spunk, heart, and creativity. Turner isn’t afraid to share the deep, hurting emotions of a ten-year-old whose world is falling apart, and many readers who have been through their parents’ separation or divorce will relate to Cass’ struggles. But the author doesn’t make the story all sour grapes and tears; instead she infuses so much humor, love, and magic into the situation that I couldn’t help but smile as I read about the mystical “Sway.” I also loved the language the author uses for Cass and her cousin, Syd (it’ll make you laugh, believe me). Sway is a heartfelt story that rings true to the voice of a young girl discovering some of the secrets of life, both good and bad.
Turner, Amber. Sway. New York: Disney Hyperion Books, 2012.