HomeBooks by AgeAges 9-12The Higher Power of Lucky & Lucky Breaks: Susan Patron

The Higher Power of Lucky & Lucky Breaks: Susan Patron

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: July 14, 2009

I recently received a copy of Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron, and there was no way I was going to read it before reading its predecessor — one of the most discussed books of recent time — The Higher Power of Lucky.

I’m just going to go ahead and acknowledge the elephant in the room, “scrotum.” If you’re already shocked, then you probably missed the controversial event of The Higher Power of Lucky being banned from schools and libraries for its use of the word scrotum — even though it had been awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal — you may not want to read any further. But first consider these words from The New York Times article, With One Word, Children’s Book Sets Off Uproar:

Pat Scales, a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee, said that declining to stock the book in libraries was nothing short of censorship.

“The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole,” she said. “That’s what censors do — they pick out words and don’t look at the total merit of the book.”

While I can certainly understand teachers and school librarians not wanting to deliver a lesson in anatomy of the “private parts” (that can be left for Health Educators), when you look at the “total merit” of the book, it would be a shame for children who are true lovers of literacy to miss Susan Patron’s Lucky trilogy. Her characters are so emotionally exposed and real — they have a depth that often lacks in children’s books. In my opinion, the Lucky series is this generation’s version of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. After reading the first two books in the trilogy, I feel completely connected and look forward to the last installment.

The Higher Power of Lucky The Higher Power of Lucky

by Susan Patron (Author), Matt Phelan (Illustrator)

Reading level:
Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 144 pages

Publisher: Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books (November 7, 2006)

What to expect: Abandonment, Interpersonal relations, Runaways

Living in a small rural town of California, Hard Pan, Lucky is surrounded by a colorful and eccentric collection of friends and neighbors. Patron has highlighted the surrounding characters with clarity. Each one stands alone, but also helps define, strengthen, and deeply connect the reader to Lucky. Lucky’s mom has passed away; her dad, who is practically non-existent, has arranged for his ex-wife to come from France to become Lucky’s guardian. As you can imagine, Lucky has some abandonment issues combined with grief, which is why she is searching for a higher power of lucky. As the story unravels, emotions run high and low, but always the story flows. Patron’s attention to detail is precise and accurate; for example, I love that five-year-old Miles is described as taking tiny steps so as not to step in the cracks of the linoleum. Topped off with excellent line drawings by Matt Phelan, pitch-perfect in an unconventional way is all that I can say.

Publisher’s synopsis:
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.

Add this book to your collection: The Higher Power of Lucky

Lucky Breaks

by Susan Patron (Author), Matt Phelan (Illustrator)

Reading level:
Ages 9-12

Hardcover: 192 pages

Publisher: Ginee Seo Books (March 10, 2009)

What to expect: Friendship, Conflict, Interpersonal relations,

Just as clear, just as contemporary, Lucky Breaks confirms that Patron is an uber-talented author. The scene is set one year later, and Lucky is ready to grow-up and make some changes. However, change can be challenging. Using smart vocabulary — yes, the word scrotum does appear — and the addition of yet another well-developed character, a whole new adventure begins with perfect continuity. Lucky Breaks teaches the reader about inner strength and self-growth. Matt Phelan’s pen, ink, and pencil illustrations are so well connected with the story. And after reading the gratifyingly polished ending, I was truly moved by the cover.
Only a learned higher power can overcome hardships and lead to a lucky break. I’m hooked on Lucky and all of the Hard Pan community!

Publisher’s synopsis: On the eve of her eleventh birthday, Lucky wants to let loose and become intrepid; she’s ready for life to change. But Hard Pan (population 43) drones on like it always has: Lincoln all tied up in knotty matters, Miles newly diagnosed as a genius but as needy as ever, Brigitte running her Café and trying to figure out what it means to be American.

Enter Paloma, tagging along on a visit to Hard Pan with a pack of hungry geologists. She’s smart and pretty and fun — definitely best-friend material. But will Lucky be able to cope with tomato worms, Short Sammy’s mysterious box, the potential for disaster when Paloma’s parents visit Hard Pan, and Lincoln’s fame among knot tyers of the world?

Lucky’s intrepidness is put to the test in this satisfying sequel to the Newbery Award-winning The Higher Power of Lucky.

Add this book to your collection: Lucky Breaks

Check out the full New York Times article, With One Word, Children’s Book Sets Off Uproar, and then listen and watch what people have to say about Susan Patron:

If you like these books, you may also like: Savvy by Ingrid Law

Link of interest: Judy Blume Talks About Censorship

I’d love to know what you think about the books? Did you read them? Would you read them? Were you involved in the controversy? Did you ban the books from your library or bookstore? Did you blog about the books and receive any interesting, or perhaps crazy, comments? We’d love to here from you!
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