A Book a Week #8

8. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Level:  T?  Not sure.

When I was younger I used to read lots of Sweet Valley High- I was addicted to the drama.  As an adult, I like watching shows like Grey’s Anatomy for the same reason.  Drama.  I like it when it is not mine.  That’s why book #8 was a double whammy for me.  Good literature+ Drama= Juicy!

The 2007 Newbery winner (maybe I am trying to read them all?  Not sure yet.) caused a heap of controversy because it contains the word scrotum.  Yup, you read that right.  The word scrotum had this book banned in many libraries.  And to be sure, the use of the word was not scandalous in any way.

Here’s a link to a great summary of the controversy in the NYTimes.  I like the part where a librarian compares ‘the word’ to “Howard Stern type shock treatment”.  Oh my.  I am not sure the woman who made that statement has actually ever listened to Howard Stern.   I think people that have a problem with this word in a book aimed at 9-11 year olds greatly underestimate what kids that age notice and think about.  The way Lucky hears this word, the way she thinks about it, and the way it comes full circle at the end of the book are very realistic in my mind.  I am always grateful when I can read a book that reminds me clearly what it was like to be coming of age, and this book does that.  The use of this word is not about kids growing up too early- it’s about recognizing how kids really think and honoring that.

Reading Challenges and Teaching Opportunities:

Background Knowledge: The book takes place in the desert and the setting (as in many stories) plays heavily into the twists of the plot.  It’s a dry town full of people living on government food in the middle of nowhere.  The higher power in the title comes from the way people talk in 12 step meetings.  The reader would need to know a bit about addictions and what a 12 step group is.

Character Development: If you are in need of a good character to study, Lucky is very rich.  The author uses action, thought, and description to constantly reveal how Lucky is changing over the course of the book.  The story is definitely a coming of age story that really reveals how a 10 year old thinks.  Like When You Reach Me, there were parts of this book that took me right back to being the age of the main character:  the conflicting feelings, the way things make sense to a 10 year old that really make no sense… etc.

The secondary characters in this book are also quite significant and would make a good study of how authors craft secondary characters, how they affect the main character.

Text to Text Connections: This book reminds me of Because of Winn Dixie.  Both Opal and Lucky are dealing with the loss of their mother.  The secondary characters in the story propel the main character along.  They climax of the story invovles a big storm that parallels the emotional upheaval of the main characters and leads to the resolution of both the physical and emotional lines of the plot.  Both books are straight up realistic fiction.  Thinking between these books would make for excellent conersation and deeper thinking about characters.

Susan Patron’s website has a list of vocabulary and some decent questions for discussion about this book.

There is also a sequel to this book called Lucky Breaks which came out last year.  You can see the book trailer here.

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