For four long months, ten-year-old Cass has been dreaming of the day her mom, Toodi, will come home. But when Toodi's welcome back party takes a turn for the disastrous, Cass finds herself stuck alone with her dull-as-dirt dad, who insists that they set off for the summer on a mysterious adventure-just the two of them.

It turns out Cass's dad has some big-time surprises up his sleeve. Once they hit the road in an old RV named The Roast, he introduces her to the amazing power of ...

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For four long months, ten-year-old Cass has been dreaming of the day her mom, Toodi, will come home. But when Toodi's welcome back party takes a turn for the disastrous, Cass finds herself stuck alone with her dull-as-dirt dad, who insists that they set off for the summer on a mysterious adventure-just the two of them.

It turns out Cass's dad has some big-time surprises up his sleeve. Once they hit the road in an old RV named The Roast, he introduces her to the amazing power of "Sway," a seemingly magical force that can bring inspiration and joy to people in major need of help.

Cass can think of one particular person who could really use some Sway. If only she could track down Toodi, Cass knows she could convince her mom to come home. But with the help of a little home-spun magic, Cass realizes that the things she needs most have always been within her reach.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Barbara Troisi
Imagine this—a wild summer back roads trip through the southern states in an old dumpy RV called The Roast with a boring dad, hooking lone old shoes along the highway with a fishing rod and sharing a magical force called ?Sway' with small town folks! Ten-year old Cass (named after the castanea dentate tree) experiences a short-lived reunion with a mom who abandons her family for a man named Ken. Dad plots a scheme to initiate healing and bonding that begins with a set of encyclopedias, dad's persona of M.B. McClean, (a green and yellow linty costume), the old shoes found near each town they visit and a traveling roadshow that features a strange suitcase with MBM stamped on it and stocked full of soap slivers with imprinted initials belonging to famous heroes and linked to Sway, the magical force guaranteed to bring joy and inspiration to all who wash in the suds. This title, a first by the author and a recommended purchase, is filled with believable characters, inventive words, humor and sadness. The encyclopedia ensures M.B. McClean (dad) of real facts and one waits anxiously for him to find the perfect historical character fit for those in need of ?Sway' power. It's a story about rescue—those who experience the magic of the soap and the new found relationship that unveils between Cass and her dad. Old soap and old shoes! Reviewer: Barbara Troisi
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Cass Nordenhauer, 10, wants to be just like her mom, who is a disaster-response volunteer. Toodi Bleu's life is so exciting—she's off rescuing people for months at a time, while Cass is stuck at home in Alabama with her boring dad. Cass has high hopes that she'll accompany her mom on some missions this summer, but instead, Toodi runs off with a man she met doing rescue work. The story really takes off when Cass's father steps up to provide his daughter with another sort of summer adventure—crisscrossing the South in a beat-up RV named The Roast, giving away something called Sway. He has a suitcase full of soap slivers, all supposedly belonging to famous historical figures. Anyone who washes with one will get some sway, taking on the characteristics of its previous owner. This leads to many memorable (if a little sappy) encounters and exchanges among Cass, her dad, and the folks they meet, as well as some painful truths that Cass learns about her parents and life itself. The colorful writing can be a little much (like Toodi's constant rhyming couplets), and Cass's believability is strained at times (what 10-year-old can recognize fake antiques but accepts that the soap slivers really belonged to Napoleon and Mother Teresa?), but by the end, Cass will have worked her quirky way into readers' hearts.—Jenny Berggren, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Ten-year-old Cass can't wait for her mother to return from a four-month-long disaster rescue trip, but when she finally does, it's a bitter disappointment. Cass and her father have tried to adapt to Toodi Bleu Nordenhauer's frequent absences: "My dad tries to fill in the empty part of the pizza when the Mom slice is taken away." But this time Toodi's leaving Alabama for good--not for a disaster but for a stranger named Ken. Who needs rescuing now? Emotions are raw and real here--it's genuinely painful to witness Cass' denial-heavy response to her mom's sudden exit, as well as her ice-cold view of her well-meaning father. The story perks up considerably when Cass and her dad hit the road in a dumpy RV called "The Roast" ("more Ritz cracker than Ritz-Carlton"). Her once–scorn-worthy dad is full of surprises, including his transformation to M.B. McClean, traveling purveyor of soap shavings allegedly owned by historical figures from Abraham Lincoln to Clara Barton. With the power of "Sway," those heroes' finer qualities are passed along to the washer. Cass' reactions to Sway and to her "new father" are fascinating and utterly credible, as is her evolving perception of her wayward mom. A linguistically playful heart-wrencher about healing, love, forgiveness and the power of believing in something good, whether it's old soap or your own family. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423134770
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 5/15/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Amber McRee Turner (www.ambermcreeturner.com) lives and writes in Germantown, Tennessee. She is a proud mother, a fan of Mary Poppins, and an easy laugher. This is her first book for children.
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2012


    I think everyone on the face of the earth should READ THIS BOOK!!! It is really well written and a moving story. I like how Cass and her dad are always honest with each other. There are many different feelings in this book in all the characters, and it is fun to follow the emotions.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    Beautiful story!! Absolutely fantastic debut novel by Amber McRe

    Beautiful story!! Absolutely fantastic debut novel by Amber McRee Turner!

    The story begins with 10 year old Cass, named after the Castanea dentata tree, waiting for her Mother to return from a 4 month rescue mission in flood ridden Missouri. Why Mother Toodi is off saving widows and orphans in nature torn areas, Cass is home with Dad Douglass, who is a janitor in the school year, meat sales man in the summer. Cass keeps a journal called the Book of In-Betweens where she doodles and takes notes for things to tell her mom in between her rescue adventures.

    Dad has been working on the RV, the Roast he calls it, getting it ready for a big adventure of the summer, wanting to take Toodi and Cass on the road and help people together. This time when Toodi returns, things are different. Mom immediately is heading out to FL to help some orphaned children there, though we see from the dialogue with Toodi and Douglas that it isn't a trip for rescue, but that she is leaving them for good.

    Douglas wants to show Cass that he can be a hero too, that they can get along fine without Toodi and that he is able to be creative and fun.. knowing in his mind that Toodi is not going to return.

    He finds a suitcase in the attic with old soaps, initialed with famous peoples names. He tells Cass about his plan to stop at the nearest town they come across once they spot a lone shoe and share the 'Sway' with them. That if they wash with these soaps, they will take on characteristics of the famous person the soap once belonged to. He has a costume that transforms him to M.B. McLean and the wonders begin with Cass as his assistant.

    Watch where the magic takes them and the Sway they have on the people they meet.

    Douglas, the Dad in the story is a character you would want for a Dad. Truly loving his daughter and trying to make good, the things that are going wrong in her life. He is a trooper and the real hero in the story. I loved the imagination he had to design a summer trip and to take Sway to the people to help them. Cass really matures on the trip and is able to work through those things that are stressful in a young girls life, especially in realizing that your Mom is not coming back to the family. This story touched my heart deeply and the magic in it was just beautiful.
    Amber McRee Turner write with spunk and feeling! She has a variety of unique, made up words that just fit so well into the storyline. She takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. I strongly recommend this book!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    I read where a blogger said, "Disney calls this a book for

    I read where a blogger said, "Disney calls this a book for 8 to 12 year olds. I call it a book for Human Beings!" That's how I feel about it. I laughed, I cried...I couldn't put it down! Syd and Cass are children full of quirky Southern charm...so real in their dialogue and emotions. Douglas, the dad is a true hero who tries hard to bring some real magic into his daughter's life, while he seeks to improve the lives of the folks they encounter on their trip through the Southland. This author has truly created a work destined to become a children's .classic also beloved by adults. Can't wait to read more from Ms. Turner!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013


    Really good book

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  • Posted January 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A fun and heartwarming read When I stop in at Starbucks, I somet

    A fun and heartwarming read
    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.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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