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The Higher Power of Lucky [Hardcover]

Susan Patron , Matt Phelan
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.61
Price: 10.56 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

7 Nov 2006
BONUS FEATURE: EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Lucky, age ten, can’t wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has.

It’s all Brigitte’s fault–for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she’ll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won’t be allowed. She’ll have to lose her friends Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. president (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. Just as bad, she’ll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve-step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own–and quick.

But she hadn’t planned on a dust storm.

Or needing to lug the world’s heaviest survival-kit backpack into the desert.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 134 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books; First Edition Second Printing edition (7 Nov 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416901949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416901945
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.9 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,408,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too 14 Mar 2007
By TeensReadToo TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, winner of the Newbery Medal, has been causing quite a stir. Why? I honestly don't know why. The story is sensitive, heartwarming, and meaningful.

Lucky's mother met an unfortunate end when she stepped out of their desert trailer home after a storm and touched a downed electrical wire. She was electrocuted and now Lucky lives with her guardian. Brigitte, a friend of her mother and the first wife of Lucky's father, came from France to take care of Lucky. Recent events have Lucky feeling suspicious. She seems to think Brigitte may be getting ready to return to France, leaving her behind in an L.A. orphanage.

There is not much to do in the desert town of Hard Pan -- population 43. Lucky spends quite a bit of her time outside the local meeting place for what she calls the "anonymous" groups. She hears the down-and-out stories of members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and more. Lucky hears about how these folks have hit "rock bottom" and then gone on to find their "higher power." Maybe if Lucky can find this higher power, Brigitte will see that it is necessary for her to stay in Hard Pan and take care of her.

Filled with colorful characters, innocent interpretations of the world, and unique surroundings, THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY takes the reader into the world of a brave little girl whose life experiences could challenge even a well-adjusted adult. Through Lucky's eyes readers will come to appreciate the wonders of the desert and the fascinating and quirky behavior of the people who touch her life.

I was reminded of the previously successful BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo when I read this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as I thought it would be! 1 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback
I bought this book to read with children who are living in foster care. I also though the concept may interest siblings of disabled children I work with. It had such good ratings that I thought it would be a hit. However I found the story line a little weak. I will still read it with the children in foster care and see what they think from a child's rather than an adult perspective!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A rite of passage for an engaging heroine 31 May 2007
By Rgh1066
Format:Hardcover
2006's Newbery Medal winner was a controversial choice. After all, it's not every children's story that takes as thematic material alcohol addiction, tobacco addiction the freakish death of the protagonist's mother and another mother gaoled for drug trafficking. Nor is it common to find the word scrotum in the first chapter of a book aimed at fifth graders. But the charm of Lucky herself is truly irresistible, and it is clear that Patron, a librarian with the Los Angeles Public Library, has consulted with experts in the field of child psychology and grief therapy.

Set in Mojave California in the tiny settlement (population 43) of Hard Pan, The Higher Power of Lucky introduces Lucky, a science-loving de facto orphan being brought up by Brigitte - the French former wife of her absentee father. Lucky's mother was killed by electrocution having stumbled across a fallen power cable after a rainstorm (post-Katrina, such a death perhaps requires less suspension of disbelief than it might have a few years ago).

Lucky's hope is that when Brigitte returns to the France she so clearly misses, someone will take her place and become a mother to her. In the meantime, the two live on Lucky's father's cheques and free food from the U.S. Government. Brigitte, being the stereotypical French woman no American child will have difficulty believing in, makes these surplus foodstuffs into sumptuous culinary creations, but Lucky believes her departure is imminent and she searches for the equivalent in her own life of the "Higher Power" she overhears being referred to at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and similar organizations that help various residents of Hard Pan to cope with the aftermath of their divers addictions.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  110 reviews
108 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, not for the faint at heart, every word relevant 19 Feb 2007
By Shulamit Widawsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book for my 8 and 11 year old boys. And then I bought more for presents for my friends' kids.

The idea that some librarians are choosing to keep this book off the shelves due to the use of the word "scrotum" right at the beginning of the book is more offensive than the word. Reality check: my boys have lots of words for that part of the anatomy, it's about time they read the proper word used in context of another boy saying it.

Surprisingly, if it is the "word" that stuns people, then they haven't read the book and thought about how stunning it is to consider a child (Lucky) listening in on a variety of 12-step groups. But those two aspects, and all the rest of the "shocking" things that happen in this book, are all absolutely appropriate, and beautifully written, to make this book something special.

I highly recommend "Lucky", and I fully agree with the age suggestion assigned it (9-12). My 8yo thought it was awesome, but then, he is in the 4th grade. My 11yo loved it.

The reality is kids in this age range have all kinds of scary ideas and powerful curiosities. Being able to read about Lucky going through such things gave my kids the opportunity to think about and talk about all kinds of things. As a family, we thought this was an excellent book.

As for the librarians and teachers who think they don't want to have to give a vocabulary lesson on the word scrotum, ask them how many times they have heard boys in the 9-12 age range yell a variety of less savory words for that part of their anatomy. The scientifically correct word is always worth teaching.

Read it for yourself, and see.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucky is as lucky does 22 Jan 2007
By Kelly Herold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Lucky has not had it, well, lucky. Her father has abandoned her, her mother died in the desert, and she lives in a tiny dusty town of 43 residents.

Lucky's town, Hard Pan, doesn't have much going for it. There's an improvised beauty salon, a post office, and the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center. Lucky cleans up the Visitor Center, and spends her time eavesdropping on the Anonymous meetings (smokers, drinkers, overeaters, and gamblers). She likes their stories and she's especially inspired by their search for the Higher Power. If only she, Lucky, could find the Higher Power. Then she could stabilize her life.

At the moment, Lucky doesn't feel that stable. She lives with her guardian, Brigitte, a Frenchwoman and Lucky's father's first wife. Brigitte is homesick, still speaks to Lucky with French terms of endearment, and, most importantly, has kept her passport. Lucky knows what that means: Brigitte will leave her in Hard Pan and head back to France.

Brigitte and Lucky live in an improvised home, comprised of three trailers linked together and mounted on concrete blocks. She has one friend in town, a knot-fantatic named Lincoln, and is followed around by a sad 5-year-old boy named Miles with a penchant for cookies and "Are You My Mother?"

Lucky resolves to follow the twelve step program, embarking on the "next step after rock bottom, the getting-control-of-your-life step." She decides to run away during a dust storm, taking a survival pack of her own design with her. Better leave than be left.

"The Higher Power of Lucky" is a charming, powerful tale for the younger Middle Grade reader (7-11). Susan Patron uses the Anonymous metaphor to good effect here. As Lucky herself explains, "It's almost impossible to get control of your life when you're only ten. It's other people, adults, who have control of your life, because they can abandon you." Isn't that the truth?

Lucky is a scrappy young protagonist and a straightforward narrator. She's also an intelligent girl, interested in biology and Charles Darwin, and means well in her search for the truth. The reader roots for her in her attempt to take control of her life, even when she makes mistakes, and is thrilled when she finally finds home.
92 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Here's an idea: read beyond the first page 20 Feb 2007
By Edward Aycock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Boy, a lot of people need to quit clutching their pearls in horror and just get over it. To dismiss a book entirely because of a word (and the CORRECT word at that, not a crude euphemism) is ludicrous; one wonders what would have happen if the slang equivalent had been used. There's a lot more to this book than the "s" word. The opening of the book establishes that this story takes place in a plain-spoken town in the real world. Unfortunately, the controversy over the word has overshadowed this bittersweet tale.

There is a silver lining to the controversy: nothing is more tempting than forbidden fruit. Those who may not have considered reading this book will be sure to seek it out, and many will then end up reading a story they enjoy. I'll bet they won't even think much about the "word" once they get into it.

I enjoyed reading about Lucky's world: the hard, dusty life in a remote California town, and the people who populate it. My favorite character was Miles, a five year old boy with a penchant for cookies and a certain picture book that, in the end, proves to be a much more poignant choice of a book than it first appears. But that's the joy of this book: even in such a relatively small book, all the characters, even those who only appear briefly, are multi-layered people with their own history. That's good writing.

Susan Patron (a librarian herself) has written a good book. Just read it and enjoy it. As for the rest, just let it go.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't be banned 18 Feb 2007
By Chrissy K. McVay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was surprised to hear that some libraries were banning this delightful book for one word, 'Scrotum'. A word I used to refer to 'that place' from the time my son was two years old without embarrassment or making him feel uncomfortable about his body. Since when was scrotum a dirty word? It reminds me of a time when my son was five and overheard the word 'vagina' while we were in the waiting room of my doctor's office. When he curiously asked me what it meant, I was able to explain it in a way appropriate for his age without a red face or the type of reaction that would make him self-conscious. Perhaps grown-ups need to do a bit more 'growing up', for these words are 'out there' in the real world and banning a book isn't going to take away all exposure to commonly used dialogue about the human anatomy (unless you raise your child in a bubble). This is a good children's book, and obviously I'm not the only one who thinks so or it wouldn't have won an award. As parents, perhaps we need to help children feel good about themselves on the inside, and our reactions to words that describe them on the outside can sometimes make the difference between them feeling comfort, or discomfort about their own bodies. As for my own son, he's a mature, confident twenty-one year old in college who shows no signs of 'mental damage' from hearing the words scrotum, vagina, rectum, (he was present when our dog had to have a 'rectal' thermometer), etc. at a young age. I believe many adults have to get over their own childhood memories of unnatural reactions to medical terms for the anatomy, and that's the real reason they avoid books that might put them in the position of explaining anything 'natural'.

But enough of that. This is a fantastic children's story with great illustrations that I found very enjoyable to read, and I plan on reading it to my future grandchildren.

Chrissy K. McVay

Author of 'Souls of the North Wind'
72 of 80 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Higher Power of Lucky 24 April 2007
By Jordan K. Henrichs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the dusty California town of Hard Pan, Lucky is searching desperately for something to believe in, her Higher Power. Having lost her mother in a horrifying accident, Lucky is now raised by her "guardian" Brigitte, as her father was not up for the job. Lucky fears that Brigitte (Bree-JEET, not BRIDGE-it) is planning on abandoning her to return home to France. With her survival kit in tact, Lucky plans an escape of her own into the desert, hoping the town of Hard Pan comes to realize what they've lost.

There's so much I could say about this book because there's just so much that doesn't make sense. For instance, why would a woman like Brigitte ever agree to fly to America and raise a child that isn't hers, that's her ex-husband's? Why in a town of only 43 (well, actually 42) people are there AA meetings for every sort of addiction known to man? Things that are supposed to seem interesting and unique have a tendency to come off boring and often times, forced in this book. I just didn't find any of it as special or meaningful as the author would've liked me to.

My biggest problem with the book is that Patron's voice is too scattered. It's not clear who she's writing this for. Lucky is nine years old, the same age as the fifth graders I teach, however a lot of the subject matter discussed in this book would mean nothing to them. At times Patron tries to write and sound like a nine year old, but she has difficulty making this believable because Lucky doesn't think and talk like a normal nine year old. It seemed to me that Patron was trying too hard to write how a child would write and this effort didn't carry evenly throughout the book. To be quite honest, it doesn't work and I think most children Lucky's age that pick up this book, will end up putting it down out of boredom.

There were a few things I didn't hate though. Lucky has a list of "good mother" qualities and "bad mother qualities". This list was adorably touching and heart wrenchingly sad at the same time. I lightly chuckled when Lucky, who wants badly to run away, can only think of places in Hard Pan to hide. She doesn't know how to actually "leave" Hard Pan and like the previous example, it's funny but somehow sad at the same time. Matt Phelan's subtle pencil drawings add a lot to the story as well. Cute as these scenes were, I just couldn't escape the fact that this book is flat out boring most of the way through.

Maybe I didn't read between the lines enough. Maybe I'm nit-picking. Maybe the things I just couldn't get over really aren't that important when telling the story. But don't we have the right to be a little nit-picky when we're talking about the Newbery Award winner? This is the book that is supposed to stand above all other children's books in a given year and I found it incredibly dull. I continue to be disappointed in the Newbery Honor and Medal books year in and year out. They've lost touch with who these books are supposed to be written for and most of the time, I'm left scratching my head.

Now let's get this straight, I don't like to write negative reviews. I don't get a thrill out of tearing down someone else's hard work. However, I happen to believe that a bad or negative review, is better than no review. It's in all fairness to the author, Susan Patron, that I write this, whether she or anyone else cares to read it or not. I guess I wouldn't have disliked this book as much as I did if it wouldn't have won the Newbery, but when a title has that shiny medal gracing its cover, it better darn well live up to the hype. Sorry folks, this one didn't.
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