Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Higher Power of Lucky

Ever wondered what it would be to grow up in a town with a population of 43 people? In THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY by Susan Patron, the reader gets a guided tour of life in a small, desert town by our young narrator...Lucky. Lucky isn't lucky. Not in the traditional sense at least. She hasn't hit rock bottom, and in fact, she thinks that might be her biggest problem. She knows from eavesdropping on all the various twelve step programs that you have to hit rock bottom before you find the 'higher power' you need to turn your life around. Lucky has never known her father. He divorced Lucky's mother before she was born. And Lucky's mother? You guessed it, has died tragically after a storm while taking a barefoot stroll when she stepped on a downed power line. Lucky's guardian is her father's ex-wife. His first ex-wife. Brigette was leaving in France--she is a French woman after all--when she got the call that her ex-husband needed her to come to California to raise his daughter from his second marriage. What was supposed to be temporary--just until she could be placed into a traditional foster care--became more long term. Thus the sign 'population 43' still rang true despite her mother's death. Readers are introduced to Lucky, Brigette, and a cast of townspeople...some quite colorful such as Miles who makes cookie runs each morning going from house to house to house--or business to business--begging for cookies. Like most books dealing with orphaned/abandoned children, Lucky spends a great deal of time wondering what will happen. Will Brigette adopt her? Will they stay in Hard Pan, California, despite the snakes and scorpions? Or will Brigette return to France and send Lucky into foster care?

The Higher Power of Lucky is the Newbery Award winner this year (2007). And while you almost hate to criticize an award-winner, I have to say that there are better books, more charming books even, on this topic that were written this past year. Foster care was a HUGE theme in 2006. The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes and Home and Other Big Fat Lies by Jill Wolfson were excellent. Outstanding even. Just truly beautiful books. Different from each other. But wonderful in their own unique way. And I've read the two Newbery Honor books PENNY FROM HEAVEN by Jennifer L. Holm and HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson. Both of those books were outstanding. Great books. Books that I hope will become classics. But The Higher Power of Lucky doesn't seem like a classic or a future classic to me. It isn't outstanding. It's good. It's not a bad book by any means. But it's not a book that grabbed me. Of the four other books I've mentioned--The Road to Paris, Home and Other Big Fat Lies, Penny From Heaven, Hattie Big Sky--I've not only loved but I've been recommending to everyone I know. They're just so good that I can't stop talking about them. They're books I would want to read and reread and own. The Higher Power of Lucky was a good read once...but I'm not sure I'll ever have the need to read it again. So in conclusion, it's a fine book. There were enjoyable aspects of the book. But it is--to me at least--a forgettable book.

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