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The Higher Power of Lucky

(The Hard Pan Trilogy #1)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  12,973 ratings  ·  1,566 reviews
Believing that her French guardian is about to abandon her to an orphanage in the city, ten-year-old Lucky runs away from her small town with her beloved dog by her side in order to trek across the Mojave Desert in this Newbery Medal–winning novel from Susan Patron.

Lucky, age ten, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published November 7th 2006 by Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
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Sarah In chapter three Lucky reflects that her mother stepped on a downed power line, was electrocuted, and died.

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There is a lot of talk about scrotum in this story. Strange and somewhat funny. I do like that Brigitte is French. What can I say? I love the French.

This story did not draw me in. It really didn't land much for me. There were some character moments that were good, but I didn't feel the story had much direction or a whole lot to say. I did appreciate Lucky searching for her higher power. That was interesting.

Otherwise, I don't have a whole lot to say on the book. It did win the Newberry and I wo
Angela Dawn
Apr 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This sleeper book is one of the most innovative, honest, and compassionate pieces of children's literature that I have read in a long time.
Through the endearing character of Lucky, the intelligent, insightful, resourceful, and resilient ten-year-old girl who became the foster child of her absentee father's French ex-wife after the death of her mother, we are given a child's eye view of a number of complex social issues in the well-named desert community of Hard Pan, CA., all handled with sensiti
Dec 12, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: juvenile
This book may ring a bell because of the laughable controversy stirred up over the use of the word "scrotum" in a blink-and-you'll-miss it reference about a snake biting someone's pet dog. Ironically, the author probably chose the clinical term on purpose to avoid trouble, since the significantly rough-around-the-edges character who tells the story would almost certainly phrase it quite differently had he been a flesh and blood figure, but what can you do? As silly as this is, I feel like I have ...more
Overall, I just can't understand why this book won the Newbery, unless it was a sad year for children's lit. I just started listening to another Newbery book, A Wrinkle in Time," and in the introduction, the author comments that adults don't understand this book, but children "get it." I feel like this book is the exact opposite; I'm sure some adults felt like it was deep and meaningful and rich, but I suspect many children will find it a bit dull and depressing. Also, I found the book to be a b ...more
I’m not sure what can be said about this that hasn’t already been said—it’s a good book, a very pretty book, somewhat atmospheric, in its way. But there’s not a lot of action. It’s another in the Newbery committee’s standards: a book with a strong character who has some internal conflict, but not a whole lot happens externally. In this particular case, I think it worked better than, say, Criss Cross, because THPOL really is about being in a town that’s perfectly happy with the status quo. The bi ...more
I've made it a habit to read the Newbery Medal winning books, and often I read the runners-up as well. What I've found is that lately I have been less than impressed with the winning titles. This particular winner typifies my dislike for the winning choices.

What we have in this book is all the didactic qualities that the ALA seems to like, mixed in with a parent-less youth, who happens to be bright enough to overcome her own situation. It's the same qualities that we found in KIRA-KIRA, CRISPIN,
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Elementary and Junior High kids who like realistic stories
I primarily chose to read this book because it has been challenged in school libraries. If it hadn't been, I might never have found it. (Thank you, censorship flunkies!) I thought this book was tender and poignant, and the characters, particularly Lucky, were very sympathetic and three-dimensional. The tale follows Lucky, whose father never wanted children and whose mother died when she was young. She is now cared for by her father's first wife, Brigitte, who happens to be French. Lucky spends m ...more
My elder daughter and I went to a book reading by Susan Patron this evening which inspired me to finally write a review of The Higher Power of Lucky. This was, frankly, one of the most inspiring children's books that I've read in years. How often is it that authors tackle life, death, addiction and meanness without tottering over into Monday Night Movie territory? Patron handles these topics with class and style, or as her character Brigitte might say, "panache."
Lucky is 10 years old and lives
Aj Sterkel
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I really like this book! It’s the kind of story I would have read over and over as a preteen. Ten-year-old Lucky lives with her guardian in a vivid little desert town. Lucky has been abandoned before and sees her guardian’s homesickness for France as a sign that she will soon be abandoned again. To avoid being dumped in an orphanage, Lucky decides to run away and live in the desert.

Every character in this novel is realistically flawed. Lucky has a mean streak and sometimes lashes out at her frie
Lisa the Librarian
This is a Newbery Medal winning book. I had heard all kinds of caveats about it: "There is an 'unsuitable' wordin it." "It is all about a little girl listening to horror stories in Alocholics Anoynmous meetings." "It is just not a well written story."

It is one of those cases where the hype outweighs the actual facts. Because I know it is important to actually read a book before getting all upset about it, and the fact that my library recieved the book as a part of an Newbery collection I decide
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Everyone's life story has the capacity to guide someone else who is searching for a thread of reason through their own. This is a special book, perfect for children. The plot is fairly simple but is riddled with complex themes--just like childhood. I found it difficult, at first, not to pathologize the behavior of each character. But the story serves as a great reminder that we all have our own struggles and our quirks. Those who listen carefully can find comfort in the experiences of others. ...more
Chance Lee
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Higher Power of Lucky tells the story of Lucky, an anxiety-ridden ten-year-old girl in the dusty Mojave village of Hard Pan, population: 43. After the death of her mother two years ago, and being abandoned by her father, Lucky is in the care of her father's first wife, a French woman named Brigitte. Lucky constantly frets that Brigitte will leave and return to France. To make Brigitte stay, Lucky decides to run away into the desert.

Lucky, to me, vacillated between "adults woman writing a ten
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: newbery-award
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Lipko
This is one of my favorite Newbery books to date!!!!

Once again, I am in awe of the ability of YA books to reach out and tug at heartstrings while dealing with very complex issues.

I highly recommend this profoundly moving tale of Lucky, a rough and tumble ten year old whose mother died tragically and thus now is in the guardianship of her father's previous wife Brigitte.

Brigitte moves from France to temporarily take care of Lucky until a "real" home can be found.

Living in three tiny connected tra
Liza Fireman
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was so much fun and very funny. Awesome read for children and parents.

I read this book with my daughter, who loved it even more than I did, and we laughed out loud so many times when Brigitte says “Oh, la-la, la-LA, la-LA, la-LA!”.
Brigitte is a character, she lives with Lucky as a guardian : she had learned to say Brigitte’s name the French way—Bree-JEET—instead of the American way, BRIDGE-it.

Lucky is an orphan, her mom died. She lives with a guardian, Brigitte, an ex of her fathers. W
Medford Children's Library
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like strong and interesting characters
Our newest Newbery Award winner introudces us to Lucky, a ten year old girl who is orphaned after the tragic death of her mother. Brigette, her father's exwife, leaves her home in France to take care of her. Lucky becomes anxiety ridden because she believes that this situation is only temporary. She searches for a Higher Power by overhearing AA meetings for strength and answers. She wishes she could have Brigette stay with her, but she knows she misses France. The hot California desert is not th ...more
Edit Ostrom
May 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Reading this book was like eating raw broccoli. You know it's good for you but you'd rather stop eating. After a while, even broccoli starts tasting good. So, I had to force myself through half the book before I started actually enjoying it and I really doubt a child has enough will power to reach that point.

There were so many things I did not like in the beginning. A child name Lucky? A beautiful, young Frech woman taking care of an American kid in a CA trailer? And the kid is the daughter of
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This Newbery Award winner was a really sweet book. Ten year old Lucky struggles to find her place. After listening in on 12-step programs for various addictions, Lucky seeks to find her higher power. Her mother died only a couple years ago, and to her knowledge, she has never met her father. When she fears that guardian Brigette wants to leave her and return to France, Lucky runs away to find her higher power. The town, Hard Pan, has a population of 43, and the characters presented are as colorf ...more
Mar 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: newbery-medal
This book was so lazy. I hate books that introduce characters but go into no depth about them like the girl, Lucky's father. You just have to assume so much. On one hand I'm glad this book was so short because I couldn't stand reading any more of it, but on the other hand give us some depth. To be honest I felt like all the characters were lacking. There was just so many questions I was left with about them. Also I'm a sucker for heartfelt endings and I'm not ashamed to admit a lot of books make ...more
eva steele-saccio
Nov 14, 2007 rated it liked it
I did enjoy this book, though I didn't think it necessarily merited a Newberry. The main character, Lucky, was quirky and intelligent and her adventures were entertaining and ultimately heartwarming. However, I felt like the writing was a bit sloppy, rushed and somewhat lazy in places. Nothing that couldn't be cleaned up with some additional editing, but still, to be bestowed the highest honor in children's literature...the writing should be impeccable. I say this realizing the intent of the pro ...more
Jul 11, 2016 marked it as dnf

I didn't even read a 25% of the book.

If I have to remember myself that Lucky is a kid and kids are selfish e v e r y paragraph, it doesn't make sense to read the book.

I really tried, but I couldn't pass the arrogance of Lucky. She wasn't a real character, too damn naïve and self-center.

Also, the rigid gender roles and the mother-has-all-the-fault, is annoying as hell. 2006, Patron, stop with that bullshit.

I cannot do it, I hate this kind of children books.
Jackie "the Librarian"
Sep 20, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: ages 9 - 12
Lucky is a girl being raised in the California desert by her stepmother, but who worries that she will lose her to homesickness. Her stepmother is French, and misses her own mother and home.
There was a lot of hoopla over the word scrotum in this book, but really, this is a slight story not worth all the excitement. It's a Newbery Award winner, for what it's worth, but I don't think it has the universal appeal of a book like Holes.
A cute book, but did anyone else wonder, like I did, why a city with the population of 43 had so many addiction recovery group meetings? I mean, there are 43--people are they all alcoholic, smoking, gambling addicts? Must have been a rough town . . .
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: children-s
Meh. This books feel like a formulaic newbery novel. I do like the controversy about scrotum it raised. That was amusing and interesting at least.
Jason Pettus
Jan 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
(I now maintain a blog just for my kid-lit reviews. Find it at .)

A friend has convinced me to try my hand this year for the first time at children's literature; but I don't actually know anything about children's literature, so am starting the process among other ways by first reading all the books that have won the Newbery Award in the last ten years, although I've been warned that there is sometimes a strong disconnect between such books and what the actual bo
Henry Martin
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
I'll admit that aside from reading mostly serious fiction, I read a lot of children's books as well, although only seldom do I review one. To be perfectly honest, most kids' books do not grab me or portray any life lessons, but there are some exceptional authors out there that I praise whenever i have the chance. The benchmark, for me, was set by Kate DiCamillo (almost all of her books) and Suzanne Collins (The Underland Chronicles). Not many authors succeed to come close to this benchmark, but ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Genre: Junior Book- Contemporary Realism
Summary: Lucky is a ten year old girl who has, unfortunately, not been very lucky in her life so far. Her mother died after stepping on a fallen power line, her father abandoned her, and now she believed her guardian Brigitte was leaving her to go back to France. Lucky needed some kind of control on her life, so she decided to run away where she was finally given the clarity she was looking for.
Critique- The character development of Lucky.
Lucky has had a
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended Ages 9-12

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
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review is required for Dr. Sykes' READ3307 course at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. The novel "The Higher Power of Lucky" by Susan Patron, is told in the third-person perspective. Lucky Trimble is the ten-year-old protagonist of the story. She lives in a small town called Hard Pan in the California desert. After her mother died, her father called his first ex-wife, Brigitte, to come to the United States from France to take care of Lucky. Lucky was scared Brigitte is tired of being he ...more
May 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Ten-year-old Lucky, who lost her mother in a freak accident, and has never met her father, lives in a "ham tin" trailer in Hard Pan, California (pop. 43) in the middle of the Mojave Desert. For the moment, her father's first wife, Brigitte, has come to Hard Pan from France to be Lucky's guardian, bringing her parsley grinder and her tendency to say "Oh, la, la," to every clumsy thing that Lucky does. (Sometimes its "Oh, la, la, la, la" or even "Oh, la, la, la, la, la, la, LA, LA," because the m ...more
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Susan Patron specialized in Children's Services for 35 years at the Los Angeles Public Library before retiring in 2007, the same year her novel The Higher Power of Lucky was awarded the John Newbery Medal. As the library's Juvenile Materials Collection Development Manager, she trained and mentored children's librarians in 72 branches. Patron has served on many book award committees, including the ...more

Other books in the series

The Hard Pan Trilogy (3 books)
  • Lucky Breaks (The Hard Pan Trilogy, #2)
  • Lucky for Good (The Hard Pan Trilogy, #3)

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17 likes · 2 comments
“Because sometimes Lucky wanted to change everything, all the bad things that had happened, and sometimes she wanted everything to stay the same forever.” 12 likes
“It made her feel discouraged, like if you took the word apart into two sections of dis and couraged. It was getting harder and harder to stay couraged.” 4 likes
More quotes…