The Higher Power of Lucky

 
Newbery winner is delicate, humorous, poignant.
Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Positive role models

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. 

Violence

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

Sex
Not applicable
Language

Several discussions of the word "scrotum."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

References to smoking, drinking and drunkenness, marijuana.

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.

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Susan Patron
Illustrator:Matt Phelan
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Atheneum
Publication date:October 1, 2006
Number of pages:133
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 11
Read aloud:9
Read alone:9
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

This review of The Higher Power of Lucky was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byTriple Baka March 6, 2014
age 8+
 

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 things she could change and the things she couldn’t, like in the little prayer of the anonymous people. Because sometimes Lucky wanted to change everything, all the bad things that had happened, and sometimes she wanted everything to stay the same forever.” Here, Lucky refers to a higher power, which something she learned about by eavesdropping on the 12-step anonymous people. It is a way to get out of rock bottom and regain control of your life. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron is about a fictional girl named Lucky Trimble, a 10-year-old living in Hard Pan, California; pop 43. She lives with her french guardian, Brigitte, on account of her mother being electrocuted after a storm by a downed power line. Lucky believes she has hit ‘rock bottom’ when she discovers Brigitte’s passport in her suitcase and suspects she is returning home. She then feels she must search for her ‘higher power’ by running away from home. I loved this book because the story is so relatable, as we’ve all imagined the sadness of losing a parent before. The main character herself is like a reflection of ten-year-old me. Lucky herself can be related to by anyone, not just kid’s 9-11, which is the intended audience. I recommend this book to everyone before they forget what it was like to be a ten year old and lose appreciation for such a beautifully written book. -Ellie Ritch 2/26/2014 Please note there is a mention of dog scrotum, drinking, smoking, and overeating.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bychristina4703 March 9, 2011
age 10+
 
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byTraciRenner April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

Very Good, but not Great

Susan Patron's characters are very likable. Children will be able to see some of themselves in Lucky. The story meanders, but not terribly. I just don't get the fuss about the "s-word".

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