Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: The Higher Power of Lucky

Author Susan Patron won a well-deserved Newberry Medal for her middle-grade novel, The Higher Power of Lucky, which I recently read along with its excellent follow-up, Lucky Breaks.

Ten-year old Lucky Trimble lives in the tiny desert town of Hard Pan, California (population 43). Lucky lost her mother when she was eight years old and now lives (in an eclectic triple trailer arrangement) with her guardian, Brigitte, who moved from France to take care of her. Lucky worries that Brigitte misses France and might decide to return and leave Lucky alone. Seeking guidance, Lucky quietly listens in on various Anonymous meetings that take place in Hard Pan’s Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center. She thinks that if she can just find her own Higher Power like the people at the meetings, then her problems will be solved:

HMS Beagle bounded out from under the kitchen trailer to smell her and find out where she had been. “HMS” stands for “His Majesty’s Ship,” and the actual original HMS Beagle was a beautiful ship that took the scientist Charles Darwin all around the world on exciting discoveries. Lucky’s dog – who was neither a ship nor a beagle – got her name because of always being with Lucky on her scientific adventures. Also, HMS Beagle was beautiful, with very short brown fur, little dog-eyebrows that moved when she was thinking, and big ear flaps that you could see the veins inside of if you held them up to the light.

A breeze rattled the found object wind chimes at the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, and the high desert air carried that sound in front of it, all the way across town, down to the three trailers at the very end of Hard Pan. Just the sound of those chimes made Lucky feel cooler. But she still had doubts and anxious questions in all the crevices of her brain, especially about how to find her Higher Power.

Lucky has plenty of friends – both young and old – in Hard Pan, including 5-year old Miles who carries the book Are You My Mother? everywhere with him (one of my own favorites!) and Lincoln, Lucky’s classmate who is a knot-tying expert.

When Lucky becomes convinced that Brigitte will return to France, she grabs her ever-present backpack/survival kit and runs away from home. Things don’t go quite as planned, though. Lucky discovers plenty of trouble along the way but also some important lessons about the meaning of family.

In the second book, Lucky Breaks, Lucky finds a new best friend – her first girl friend ever – among some visiting geologists. On the eve of her eleventh birthday, Lucky is yearning for adventure and excitement with her new friend, but she gets more than she bargained for.

Both books are written with warmth and wit. Lucky is a wonderful heroine, trying to find security and friendship among the eccentric characters of her hometown. Hard Pan is a unique and endearing character in itself. You’ll wish you could visit Hard Pan yourself to eat at Brigitte’s cafĂ© and hang out with Lucky and her friends. I’m looking forward to the third and final Lucky book.

The Higher Power of Lucky, 144 pages, RL= 5.9, Aladdin Paperbacks
Lucky Breaks, 192 pages, RL=6.0, Athenuem

1 comment:

Andrea said...

I didn't know there was a sequel! That is good news. I listened to The Higher Power of Lucky and enjoyed it.