Newbery Books discussion

2008 Book of the Month > The Higher Power of Lucky

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message 1: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 41 comments Everyone got their reading done?

I put my general thoughts into my review, but basically, there were several things I liked about this book. Overall I gave it three stars--it's not one of the best Newberys I've ever read, but it was enjoyable. I really liked Brigitte's character and the ways the author showed her homesickness.

message 2: by Annette (new)

Annette (noblegirl) | 49 comments I didn't enjoy reading this book at all and I have several reasons why: a) It's too depressing b) I don't think that kids will be able to relate to it or enjoy reading it c) I don't like the part where Lucky leaves Miles in the middle of a sand storm. Why does she turn into such a mean little girl anyway? d) I don't think that any of the characters are well developed e) I don't think that Lucky acts like a 10 year old. f) why couldn't the dog get bit on the leg? Why did it have to be the "scrotum"? I'm not opposed to using that word, but it just seems to be an odd way to start a book. The word "scrotum" appears 5 times in the first chapter and then reappears at the end. It just seems like an odd way to start and end a children's book. g) It doesn't make sense for Brigette to open up a resaurant in a small town where everyone receives food from the government. Okay maybe I'm being a little too nit-picky on that last one, but I just can't understand why this book won the Newbery, I'm truly stumped!

message 3: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 41 comments I didn't really think Lucky acted like a ten-year-old either--maybe twelve. Were you thinking older or younger?

Before I read this I wondered the same thing--wouldn't it be just as effective to have a dog bitten by a rattlesnake elsewhere?--but in the context of the story, it makes more sense--it really had to be something Lucky didn't understand, that was an interesting-sounding word.

I, too, was bothered by Lucky's behavior toward Miles, though I don't think it was ALL that out of character--she talks about being selfish or mean throughout--and also by the way she violates the privacy of the 12-step meetings, both by listening and then by repeating. I DO think that both are things that children would do, but I don't think Lucky ever really felt that badly about it. But I like the part at the end where she's plugged up her spying hole.

It was an interesting book, but with the mother dying and the father deserting her and being given to a stranger and Miles's mother in prison... ugh, just too much. As I say in my review, it reads kind of like one of those ubiquitous traumatic childhood memoirs.

message 4: by Jeanette (new)

Jeanette I agree with pretty much everything Annette said. This is probably one of my least favorite Newbery winners. I don't understand the decision to award this book with the medal.
The things that bothered me the most were the lack of character development, and the depressing tone of the story. I also really wonder how many kids in the target audience really like this book?

message 5: by Annette (last edited Jul 02, 2008 07:20AM) (new)

Annette (noblegirl) | 49 comments To Wendy, I was thinking that she acted older, but I don't remember now what it was about her that made me feel that way.

Here's another question - why did she choose to run away in the middle of a sand storm? I would think that would be the least convenient or desirable time to run away.

Lucky's meanness makes it hard for me to sympathize for her. I don't think the author did a good job of making Lucky a likable main character. Perhaps I am being too harsh. I admit I wouldn't be so harsh if it hadn't won the Newbery. What refreshments were they serving at those committee meetings anyway?

message 6: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 60 comments I think this is my favorite Newbery so far. I brought the book to read while I am on vacation in Mammoth, Ca, not realizing that I would be just to the northwest of where the story takes place, suffering from nosebleeds due to the altitude and dry air. Lucky is just learning about the consequences of her actions and living in such a small town she doesn't have the luxury of choosing her own friends and has to put up with annoying younger neighbors or spend time eavesdropping on the older folks. She left during the sand storm because she felt she'd been given three signs to leave that day, and she grew up a little bit when she changed her mind, turned around, and helped Miles get into the cave which she had run away to.

Krista the Krazy Kataloguer (kristathekrazykataloguer) | 3 comments I thought the book was excellent. I cried at the end! I thought that her living situation was a little peculiar, but that made the book all the more interesting. I think some of the things Lucky did were just typical of kids, done without thinking through the consequences, or, especially, misinterpreting what they see and hear. When I started to read the book, I really didn't expect to like it, but I was pleasantly surprised.

message 8: by Dawn (last edited Jul 03, 2008 09:15PM) (new)

Dawn | 66 comments I liked this book okay, but I wouldn't have picked it for a Newbury. It was too short to get me depressed and it was interesting in a mild sort of way. As far as I could tell, the theme might be that children in all sorts of family situations are still loved. That's another reason it wasn't depressing to me--Miles' grandma loves him, the town characters help each other and the kids, and Lucky realizes by the end how much Brigitte loves her. I liked all the French touches--a fascinating culture clash with tiny town in the CA desert. I thought Brigitte might just take Lucky back to France with her, but I suppose that wouldn't have fit with the story.

I agree with Kathy and Krista that the things Lucky did were just kid things plus they grew out of her own situation. She felt so bad about her own mother that she took it out on Miles by being mean to him. Besides, most ten year olds are not patient with whiny five year olds who have irritating habits. Boredom led her to eavesdrop on the AA meetings, and the stories she heard were interesting! I liked listening to adult conversations when I was a kid--they were interesting to me, too. Plus she needed help in her own life, so naturally she wanted to know about that "higher power." I found it touching that the book poor Miles carried around was "Are You My Mother?" (a favorite for my kids, too).

Lucky runs away during the dust storm because of the signs and because it is the perfect time to get away. As a kid, she is pretty confident in her power to handle things, even a dust storm. But she goes somewhere fairly easy to guess by those who know her--another kid trait of short-sighted planning. Or maybe she wants to be found. She talks about going back in a few days to hide under the porch and listen to find out if she is missed. She certainly wants to be loved and secure. I didn't really understand why she wore the red dress unless she was trying to punish Brigitte by taking it. I agree that Lucky grew up a bit by the end, as indicated by helping Miles, scattering her mother's ashes, and plugging up her eavesdropping hole.

I liked Brigitte's character and I was impressed by how well she handled Lucky's question about "scrotum" at the end. I loved the way Lucky got rid of the snake. I loved how delighted she was to classify her coloring as desert "camouflage." Her love of science and nature, interest in insects, resourcefulness, and unconventional approach to things all reminded me of my mom. I also loved the way she described being badly surprised as the way you feel when you go to sit down on the toilet and someone has left the seat up!

Writing helps me think through things, so now that I've written all this, I do like the book. But I agree with Jeanette that I doubt the kid audience would like the book. And as I said, I don't think it deserved the Newbury. Weren't any better books written in 2006? I give this book 3 stars on the Goodreads scale.

message 9: by Dawn (new)

Dawn | 66 comments P.S. Why do you think her name is "Lucky?"

message 10: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 5 comments First let me just say that I loved this book!!! It's so sweet. It was a little reminiscent of Sharon Creech's Ruby Holler, I thought.

If you didn't like this book (gasp!), may I ask what you were reading before this book that you are comparing it to? Please remember that this book was written for a young audience that isn't picky about literature or literary elements and maybe doesn't even like to read. I think she, Lucky, is acting exactly like a ten-year-old girl would: contemplative, non-moody (which is what the twelve-year-old girl would be like), honest, loving, and most importantly she was trying to figure out the world around her.

In answer to a lot of your comments, and in no particular order:

Maybe if it had been longer it would have been a little depressing. I didn't think the author really dwelled too much on Lucky's misfortune, so it wasn't depressing for me.

Many children, if not all at some point or other, even those with both parents around, struggle to feel accepted within their own little family cell, so I think it's very relatable to kids. Lucky just wasn't quite sure of Brigitte's devotion.

And about Lucky walking away from Miles in the storm, she was just frustrated that her "little brother" friend was ruining her whole plan. She wanted to do something to get everyone's attention, and she was so close, and she didn't want him to get in the way of that (I think kids can relate to this kind of sibling rivalry). But then she realized that maybe he was in danger, so then she decided to help him.

It's totally relatable that she listened in on the 12-step meetings. You can't tell me that any of you never eavesdropped on an adult conversation when you were a kid! Plus, she lived in a sleepy ol'e town where nothing really ever happened, except for these meetings.

I think she wore Brigitte's dress to prove to Brigitte that she could be like her, and that she should want to keep her and not go home to France.

I, too, loved the toilet seat comparison! LOL!

I think she ran away in the middle of the sandstorm to maximize everyone's sympathy upon finding her. It was the perfect thing to get them to be worried enough to wonder where she was. A bit of a drama-queen, but many o' 10-year-old girls are!

Sorry if I come off a little strongly, but I thought this book was very refreshing and fun to read (like I was reading the actual thoughts of an actual 10-year-old), so I was naturally shocked that so many of you didn't enjoy it. So there you go, those are my opinions.

message 11: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 41 comments ("so many of us" didn't like it at all? 2 out of 7, so far! I wouldn't worry!)

I don't think anyone has said, at least here, that it wasn't realistic or relatable for her to listen in on the 12-step meetings.

The main aspect of Lucky's character that I thought seemed older than 10 was her awareness of Lincoln as a "boy"--10-year-olds definitely get crushes and talk about boys, but I thought her thoughts about him were those of someone a little older.

I didn't think much about it at the time, but I guess I thought Lucky wore Brigitte's dress because it was precious to her--she took other things that were precious. She was running away, but she loved Brigitte and didn't want to let her go. And once she had it on, she liked the way it looked; it made her feel grown-up, which is, of course, a feeling young girls love.

Why was she named "Lucky"?... on one level, I think the author probably chose that name partly to show that this girl was a little "different" from everyday girls named Jenny or Sarah, and also to give the book a little "lift" of positivity. On another level (I'm not sure which you meant by your question, Dawn!), I thought Lucky was probably a nickname and she was named after her mom, Lucille.

message 12: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 5 comments I guess I should clarify: so many of you didn't LOVE it:)

Oh, I guess I was wrong about the 12-step comment. I could've sworn it was mentioned. Oh well, sorry.

I didn't think about Lucky wearing Brigitte's dress because it was precious to her. Makes sense.

I like your ideas about why she used the name Lucky, I hadn't thought about maybe a nickname of her mom's name. Cool.

message 13: by Annette (new)

Annette (noblegirl) | 49 comments My two main complaints about this book are: 1)lack of character development and 2) lack of kid appeal, do any of you know personally of any kids who actually liked this book? My guess is that most kids won't "get it", but of course I could be totally wrong.

I will say this though, I did enjoy the toilet seat comparison and I also appreciated Brigitte's definition of the word "scrotum".

I did'nt actually hate the book, but I certainly didn't love it either. I feel like any book that wins the Newbery is supposed to be "disingushed children's literature" and I personally wouldn't even consider this book to be above average. No offense intended just a difference of opinion.

message 14: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Jorgensen (sunnie) | 29 comments I thought this book was very interesting. No it's not my favorite and no I don't think it will go down in history as the "one-you-have-to-read," but it's a charming book. I don't think she acts like a normal 10 year old but I have seen kids that are put in situations that are very adult like (parents not there) and they mature (not a lot, but a little because in the end they are kids). The uncertainty that Brigitte might not always take care of her and she would be left with her father, a complete stranger, is a scary situation. The ending, for me, was touching. I must admit that my favorite part was learning about other people finding their higher power. How many of us ever hit rock bottom and find our higher power? Where does the higher power come from? These are very delicate questions. I liked it.

message 15: by Liz (new)

Liz (hissheep) I did read this one, since when I went to pick my reserve copy from the library, I recognized the cover. But can I remember what it was about? NO. Anyone know of a site that could give me a synopsis to refresh my memory so I can join the discussion?

message 16: by Kristine (new)

Kristine (kristine_a) | 140 comments Mod
ok, I read this a few months ago so I didn't reread it, but here is how my memory serves me:

I liked it. I think I would give it a high-3-almost-4. It seems the new trend to have Newberys (M&H) about a child dealing with not having a parent / coming of age story. (i.e. Winn Dixie, etc.) I can see why -- it's a new trend for children to deal with parental issues (aren't less than 40% of children living with both of their parents? or something like that?). Anyway I usually have a soft spot for these stories knowing so many young kids dealing with the same issues. So I think there are kids who could relate to Lucky (Loss is universal whether thru death or divorce a kid can still relate to the loss of the parent)

My heart ached for little Lucky even though she was kind of a snot sometimes -- I actually found her behavior pretty realistic based on the 10 year olds I know . . . so I guess it depends on which 10 year old you compare her to.

I thought how it was cute she was superstitious (the 3 signs, etc) that's what I connected her name to the most. Overall I thought the book ended on a really sweet note and taught a lot about grieving in your own way and overcoming all the junk kids have to deal with these days.

Ok, it's really late & I'm tired and I think I'm rambling so I'll wrap it up.

message 17: by Liseuse (new)

Liseuse (la_liseuse) | 6 comments although I liked it myself, I didn't ever recommend it to my 4th grade students. the issues brought up were just too hard for them to relate to. which is probably one of its failures if it claims to be a kids' book.

message 18: by Hilary (new)

Hilary | 5 comments Is there any way of finding out what the Newbery Committee's reasons were for picking this book over the others? Do they ever explain their choices? Just curious.

message 19: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 14 comments I think you really underestimate your students with this evaluation. There are lots of books that deal with the painful aspects of life, and Patron does it in a funny and approachable way. I think you will find in looking over the Newbery books of past years, that The Higher Power of Lucky fits in quite well.

message 20: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 25 comments Mod
Aimee, your kids are incredibly lucky (and perhaps a bit sheltered) if none of them are dealing with similar issues.

I've got a remarkably opposite perspective. I work as a therapist with kids in foster care. I thought it was an incredibly approachable, interesting, and charming take on something that is hugely familiar to so many kids I know, and not just ones at work.

I loved Lucky. I loved her anger, and her fears. She was overwhelmed, and naturally so, but the story was told in a way that it would resonate without overwhelming readers.

Most of the Newberys for the last few decades have been about children in difficult circumstances dealing with fears, uncertainties, even anger. At their best, they deal with the most challenging hurdle for many kids, which is coming to terms with their parents' humanity and weaknesses. These books often balance entertainment with some sort of fascination about others' circumstances (at near that age, I read Anne Frank's Diary, among other things), and promote empathy in kids who don't find in the stories the normalization of their own confusing experiences. This book does that exceptionally well, and aside from that, I enjoyed it, too.

It was probably the kids' lit book I've read recently that most made me think of all the kids I wanted to recommend it to.

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