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Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY by Susan Patron

Middle-grade fiction
Atheneum, 2006
134 pages  $16.95
Newbery Medal Winner

One thing I love about certain writers is that they say so much with so little. Susan Patron is one of those writers. In this spare, lovely story, we meet ten-year-old Lucky, who lives in a desert town of few people (Pop. 43) with her guardian, Brigitte, and her dog, HMS Beagle. (How could you help but love a dog with such a name?) Lucky is a unique and lovable character who strives to find a Higher Power to help her make sense of her fractured family and sometimes bleak circumstances. But like all good writers, Patron doesn’t bludgeon us with despair but lifts us up with humor. In many ways, this little girl is lucky—and so are we for meeting her.

Writers will learn what a pitch-perfect voice should sound like and how characters can be so exquisitely drawn in a very few pages. Readers will cheer for Lucky and her friends, who we bond with on first meeting. Parents will love that a serious story can be told lovingly and humorously. Kids will love that Lucky carries a survival backpack and that her friend Lincoln can tie any knot known to man.

Censorship Alert!  Widely challenged for its use of the word scrotum, this wonderful novel contains nothing any sane person would object to. As a point of information, the scrotum in question belongs to a dog, and Lucky herself isn’t even sure what a scrotum is. This is hardly a controversial story.

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