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The Higher Power of Lucky Paperback – December 30, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Hard Pan Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6–When Lucky's mother is electrocuted and dies after a storm, Lucky's absentee father calls his ex-wife, Brigitte, to fly over from France to take care of the child. Two years later, the 10-year-old worries that Brigitte is tired of being her guardian and of their life in Hard Pan (pop. 42) in the middle of the California desert. While Lucky's best friend ties intricate knots and the little boy down the road cries for attention, she tries to get some control over her life by restocking her survival kit backpack and searching for her Higher Power. This character-driven novel has an unusually complicated backstory, and a fair amount of exposition. Yet, its quirky cast and local color help to balance this fact, and the desert setting is fascinating. Lucky's tendency to jump to conclusions is frustrating, but her struggle to come to terms with her mother's death and with her new life ring true. Phelan's cover and line drawings are simple and evocative, a perfect complement to the text. Fans of novels by Deborah Wiles and Katherine Hannigan will be happy to meet Lucky.–Adrienne Furness, Webster Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Lucky, age 10, lives in tiny Hard Pan, California (population 43), with her dog and the young French woman who is her guardian. With a personality that may remind some readers of Ramona Quimby, Lucky, who is totally contemporary, teeters between bravado--gathering insect specimens, scaring away snakes from the laundry--and fear that her guardian will leave her to return to France. Looking for solace, Lucky eavesdrops on the various 12-step meetings held in Hard Pan (of which there are plenty), hoping to suss out a "higher power" that will see her through her difficulties. Her best friend, Lincoln, is a taciturn boy with a fixation for tying knots; another acquaintance, Miles, seems a tiresome pest until Lucky discovers a secret about his mother. Patron's plotting is as tight as her characters are endearing. Lucky is a true heroine, especially because she's not perfect: she does some cowardly things, but she takes pains to put them to rights. Francisca Goldsmith
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 11 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 6
  • Lexile Measure: 1010L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (December 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416975578
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416975571
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Shulamit Widawsky on February 18, 2007
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.
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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.
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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.
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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'
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