Newbery Project #7: 2007’s The Higher Power of Lucky

luckyThe most a lot of people had to say about this book when it won in 2007 was “But it has the word ‘scrotum’ on the first page!”

And honestly, there might not be much more to say about this book.

Lucky lives in a very small town with her father’s ex-wife (not her mother). Lucky’s mother was killed by a fallen power line after a rainstorm. Lucky’s father is just not the fathering type. But apparently Lucky’s father’s first wife is the mothering type, despite never being a mother herself and being from France and never having lived in the United States before coming to take care of Lucky and live in a trailer. She is apparently totally fine with all of this.

Lucky spends the book coming to terms with her mother’s death and herself and her separation anxiety, and that’s pretty much the story.

The book is nice. The story is heartfelt and genuine enough. Being a city kid and living now in a bigger city, I’ve never been much for the small-town/country books that the Newbery seems to like a lot of the time. I may feel differently about this if I was a small-town kid.

There are adult characters that are actually lovingly drawn and interesting, namely Brigitte, Lucky’s “guardian.” This is a nice change of pace from the standard kids’ book, where adults are cardboard cutouts who have to be there, or who sometimes are barely there at all. Usually you orphan a kid because you don’t want to write the adults. However, I do wish a little more attention was paid to Brigitte’s motivation for moving to the serious middle-of-nowhere to live in a trailer and care for her ex-husband’s kid. But the way her scenes with Lucky are written we see a lot of different sides to her personality and it’s refreshing.

I just never got behind Lucky as a character, and given that this is a very character-driven, slow, kind of think-piece, you’ve got to be really wrapped up in a character to be carried through. I just wasn’t. Lucky’s main fear of abandonment (very justifiable) is not that relatable to a lot of kids. To the kids that can relate, I’m sure this is a powerful book, though.

Would kids like it? It’s another quiet little thing that certain kids would love, I’m sure, and I know a lot of teachers would love to teach this in a small group setting, but it’s not a crowd pleaser.

Are there “funny bits”? Patron tries to lighten the mood a few times. She seems to have a penchant for bathroom humor, actually. The scrotum thing comes up more than once, and I seem to recall some sort of fart/poop joke at some point. This is not my kind of humor! Also, it feels very out of place in this otherwise not-at-all silly book.

Do I understand why it won? Sure. The two main characters are multi-faceted and interesting. It deals with real emotions sensitively. It is ultimately optimistic. It’s nice.

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