A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the main character's mother was electrocuted by a downed power line, and her father has abandoned her. There are several discussions of a dog's scrotum (which led to the banning of this book by some school libraries) and references to smoking, drinking, and marijuana.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Lucky's life doesn't much match her name. Her mother was killed a couple of years ago when she accidentally touched a downed power line. Her father, who never wanted children, called his previous wife to come from France to take care of Lucky, and then promptly disappeared. So Lucky and her guardian, Brigitte, live in their trailer-home in the tiny, impoverished desert community of Hard Pan, subsisting on government surplus food and the occasional support check her father sends.
Lucky likes to eavesdrop on 12-step meetings, and wonders how she can find her Higher Power. But perhaps she has to hit bottom first, which may happen sooner than she thinks -- it appears that Brigitte may be longing to go back to France, leaving Lucky to enter the state system.
Is it any good?
This kind of book is catnip to Newbery committees. The lack of plot, the eccentric characters in a small community, the combination of humor and pathos, the sad but plucky protagonist in dire straits, the unhurried and media-free lives the characters lead -- it's all here. And author Susan Patron does a lovely job of it. The secondary characters are fascinating, and Lucky herself is intriguing: She always carries a survival kit, her hero is Charles Darwin, she plans to be a scientist, and she collects bugs in the breath mint containers thrown out by 12-step groups. Even the desert setting becomes a character.
All of it is delicately captured in black-and-white illustrations by Matt Phelan that perfectly match the tone of the text. Those who need plot-driven action probably will find this dull. But kids who loved Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo will probably love this one too.
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