It’s all Cybils all the time for me right now – except for this book, which I read just as the Cybils nomination period was opening in the expectation that it would be nominated, because Circus Mirandus had been so very popular (link to a review at Views from the Tesseract, as it looks like I never reviewed it.) Every year I start doing this, and every year, like this, I read some that end up not getting nominated, like this one. I’m still glad to have read it.
Tumble & Blue by Cassie Beasley. Dial Books, 2017.
Blue Montgomery (a boy, unlike Blue Sargent) comes from a family where pretty much everyone has either a curse or gift. Blue’s father has the gift of always winning, which has led to an exciting career in car racing. Blue, though, always loses. Not just loses, but loses spectacularly – like a deer running out of the forest and knocking him down if he might be close to winning a race with another kid.
Now, though, Blue’s dad is dropping him off at the home of a grandmother he’s never met, at a house in rural Georgia near the Okefenokee Swamp. There’s a legend that anyone in the family could have a chance for a new destiny if they’re able to find the alligator they’ve named Munch in the swamp under a blood red moon, and the old house is soon crowded with extended family members hoping for a chance.
Tumble Wilson’s family has decided, much to her chagrin, to leave their shiny red camper and settle in an old house that just happens to be down the road from Blue’s grandmother. Tumble sees herself as a hero in training, always carrying her emergency backpack filled with supplies recommended by her hero, Maximal Star. But slowly, she comes to realize that every rescue attempt she’s ever made has ended in her needing to be rescued herself.
We the readers know that the magic is real, even though Tumble doesn’t believe it when Blue tells her, because their stories are interwoven with short reflections from the point of view of the alligator, a being with quite a different perspective. This is a nice balance of magical and the realistic – the scenes of the swamp at night are vivid and magical, but Blue and Tumble both learning to be friends and to accept their limitations are just as important to the story. Both of them develop their relationships with their families as well as their friendship. And while destinies may be changed through magic, it’s realistic enough not to fix things like a father who doesn’t know what to do with a son so very different from himself. With plenty of humor to balance the heartache, this is a book to appeal to a broad range of kids.