"SAVVY," by Ingrid Law, Dial, 352 pages, $16.99

Birthdays are always special, but to the Beaumont family, the 13th is the magic number.

That's when they get their own savvy — "just a know-how of a different sort. Some people get called whiz kid or prodigy ... those who can run fast and win medals ... (we Beaumonts) had a name for our talents ... and we had to learn to scumble — to use our savvy or work around it."

On his 13th birthday, Grandpa Bompa, "a small-fry hobbledehoy boy" made Idaho by stretching the borders of Wyoming and Montana to make it fit. Rocket Beaumont's savvy was electrical, "causing every light bulb in the house to explode with live-wire zing."

Mibs' (real name Mississippi) special 13th birthday is being put on hold since her father is in a coma after a car accident.

"The Thursday before the Friday before the Saturday" until her savvy-getting day, Mibs sneaks into the ultra-pink Heartland Bible Supply Bus hoping for a ride to the hospital. She is joined by two brothers (Fish, whose savvy causes hurricanes, and tiny Samson, who crawls into cracks and crannies like an invisible turtle), and the "laced up a bit tight" son and "fitzgiggly" daughter of the pulpit-pounding preacher.

The overall-clad driver, Lester, "a fellow whose gears might turn a bit slower than those of other folks," is intent on making his Bible deliveries (all the Bibles are pink!) with or without the milieu of kids stowed in the back of the bus. He assists Lill, a stranded motorist, who "shines on Lester like the sun."

Lill's savvy isn't like the Beaumont's but a special one of her own. Does Mibs get her savvy? She thinks she does when she hears voices and seems to be able to read people's minds. She really wants to have the savvy to bring Papa from his coma.

"Savvy" is an irresistible read by a master storyteller.

Mibs' voice is fresh and new; author Ingrid Law portrays characters that are never ordinary. Each has a quirky part that polishes them clean and slick. The plot, which could have been another predictable story about kids running away from home, has unexpected twists and turns that will delight 9- to 13-year-olds.

The reader, even to the end, may wonder if Mibs gets her savvy on her 13th birthday. One thing is certain: Everybody seems to have some level of savvy in their life.

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