The Higher Power of Lucky

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Higher Power of Lucky Book Poster Image
Parents recommend
Newbery winner is delicate, humorous, poignant.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages
Positive Role Models & Representations

Lucky is plucky, spunky and a little mean, but she is still incredibly captivating to watch. Perhaps, not something you'd want your child emulating, but given Lucky's unusual and difficult background, she is understandable and generally likable. 


A mother is electrocuted by a downed power line, not described.


Several discussions of the word "scrotum."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to smoking, drinking and drunkenness, marijuana.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bychristina4703 March 9, 2011
Adult Written byTheGoofiest October 26, 2009
I loved this book. I am a 25 year old going to school to be a elementary school teacher and had to read it for class. I think this book was very good. For the u... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMochiWolf June 15, 2018

Incredible and Moving

I have to admit, when they were talking about "that part" of a dog in the first chapter, I was skeptical and asked my mom if I should really be readin... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTriple Baka March 6, 2014

The Higher Power of Lucky

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron 5/5 stars

“If she could only find it, Lucky was pretty sure she’d be able to figure out the difference between the t... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Lucky's "meanness gland." Why are even good people sometimes mean? 

  • Why does Lucky sometimes like being mean? 

  • Do you ever feel this way? 

  • What do you do about it?

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