Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron [2007]

My Rating: 5.5/10

Quick Summary: Ten-year-old Lucky (fascinated by 12-Step Meetings and insects) worries that her guardian is going to leave her to go back to France, as she tries to figure out her own "Higher Power".

Like Moon Over Manifest, this was a mis-aimed book.  The tone and style of the book read like a picture book, but the content seems meant for an older audience.  And there was apparently a huge furor over the fact that the book has the word "scrotum" on the very first page. (Which I really don't care about one way or another, except to be appalled at all the librarians practicing censorship over a anatomical term.)

Books about orphaned children living in difficult circumstances are quite common among Newbery winners, and so Lucky's rather depressing situation (living in a trailer in a desert town [population 43], and having to eat government food, with flashbacks to the traumatic death of her mother) is not a shock.  But again, the target audience seems to be the younger crowd, considering the length of the book (just a bit over 100 pages), the fact that it is illustrated, and the overall feel of the writing... which makes the subject matter rather odd.

Because the style and subject don't mesh, the book comes off as something of a head-scratcher.  It should either be a longer book with a more sophisticated style and deeper character development, or a shorter and less glum book with more pictures.

There were definitely some redeeming features about it, though.  I liked the character of Lucky, as she was interesting and well-developed.  There were some well-written scenes- I particularly enjoyed the bit where Lincoln fixed the grammar of the "SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY" sign, as those signs always bugged me when I was a kid.  I also was impressed at how well the author established a sense of place; the town of Hard Pan was practically a character in and of itself.

In the end, however, this was a flawed and not particularly notable book.  I'm really not sure what the committee was thinking, but perhaps there was something about The Higher Power of Lucky that spoke to them, even if it didn't really reach me.

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