Title: The Higher Power of Lucky
Author: Susan Patron
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Publication Date: February 2007
Lucky, a ten-year-old girl, struggles with her life in Hard Pan, California. Fearing that her guardian, Brigette, who is her father's first wife, wishes to return to her homeland of France, Lucky plots to run away into the desert. Unfortunately, Lucky doesn't count on the dust storm or the five-year-old, Miles following her and altering her plans.
This book has recently been the focus of a windstorm of controversy for the use of the word "scrotum" in the initial chapter. More information regarding that may be found here, however I was disappointed by this Newbery winner.
Frankly, the book was rather dull and boring. While I understand that a ten-year-old child who is now motherless and placed into guardianship might fear that the placement was impermanent, I think that this book stretches Lucky's fears and irrationalities too far. First, Lucky never verbally expresses her fears to anyone. Her inner monologue and tendency to ramble to extremes would probably be behavior that was noticed by an adult. The fact that adults don't speak to Lucky about her mother's passing or her feelings regarding the matter strikes me as unusual, particularly since the book is set in contemporary times in which psychology would be used for a child who has suffered the trauma of losing a parent and probably grief counseling as well.
The book isn't as enjoyable to me as many other Newbery winners. The story is slow moving and focuses entirely upon Lucky's fears. The only catalyst that seems to be Lucky's reason for leaving is her fear that she will be abandoned. "They can die, like Lucky's mother. They can decide they don't even want you, like Lucky's father. And they can return to France as suddenly and easily as they left it, like Brigette." (p. 81) While Lucky presumes, incorrectly, that Brigette is studying a restaurant management course so that she will return to France, this doesn't seem to be the unseating moment that drives her to leave. Lucky had already mentioned running away several points in the past and she is obsessed with abandonment.
Patron's poignant Newbery-winning story about a girl who fears being abandoned by her legal guardian—and her only semblance of a family—sails along with believable childlike rhythms and kid's-eye-view observations. Listeners will especially appreciate Campbell's subtlety and smooth, comforting delivery in a heartbreaking scene in which 10-year-old Lucky recalls, with gentle support from her best friend, her deceased mother's memorial service. On the remainder of the recording, Campbell remains a welcoming guide to Lucky's world—populated by eccentric friends, the quirky townspeople of tiny, struggling Hard Pan, Calif.—and Brigitte, the guardian she desperately wants to keep, maybe with some help from a Higher Power. Campbell appropriately gives recent Parisian transplant Brigitte a French accent, though it's thankfully never overplayed. By program's end, listeners will be rooting for Lucky and Brigitte to remain together forever. Contains an interview with the author, in which Patron says she is working on a companion novel. Ages 9-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Tie into a lesson on desert animals.
Compare and contrast Lucky's desert environment with other environments and ecosystems including arctic, rain forest, tundra, and grasslands.