Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book of the Week: The Higher Power of Lucky

Around Halloween, I reviewed the most recent Newbery Award winner, The Graveyard Book.  I thought that the holiday season would be a great time to review another Newbery winner, in case people are looking for last-minute gift ideas.  I'm not going to mention the 2008 Newbery winner, except to say that it was absolutely awful (which you will very rarely hear me say) and I firmly believe that the only reason why it won was because it was written by a librarian and the people on the Newbery committee were showing their solidarity.  So we'll go back another year to the 2007 winner, The Higher Power of Lucky.

Granted, Susan Patron, the author of The Higher Power of Lucky, was also a childrens' librarian (for 35 years, no less), but I don't feel that played a part in this novel being chosen for the Newbery.  This is a novel that has something for everyone.  There has been a lot of controversy over this book, and I can see both sides of the issue.  Yes, the word "scrotum" is in the book.  Yes, scrotum is 100% gratuitous.  Yes, Lucky's dog could have been bitten anywhere...on the foot, on the didn't have to be the scrotum.  But  someone smart once said that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  People were talking about this book.  "Scrotum" is apparently scandalous!  It created an uproar in the library community.  At the time this was happening, I had to wonder why all of these outraged people didn't have better things to do with their time.  I'm sure that if I headed over to my 612's, I would find the word "scrotum" in plenty of books, along with some even more colorful words.  But people were up in arms.

Despite the shock value, the book won the Newbery, and it deserved it.  Lucky is like a modern-day Ramona Quimby: spunky, inquisitive, and full of life.  After losing her mother in a tragic accident, her father's estranged wife, Brigitte, leaves France to care for Lucky.   Lucky is sure that her "higher power" will make her life less difficult.  In the meantime, she decides to always be prepared and carry around a survival kit, just in case.  This will come in handy when Lucky thinks that Brigitte is planning on returning to France, which prompts Lucky to run away, along with an unexpected travel companion.  Students will relate to Lucky and her unfortunate experiences--if they are like me, they will both laugh and cry.

Personally, I would not shy away from doing this as a read-aloud.  I have a feeling that if you read the infamous scrotum sentence and just kept going, students wouldn't even notice.  I highly doubt there would be any gasps of shock in the room.  And if anyone did ask, it could be easily defined as part of a dog's body. Don't let one word ruin the chance for a great read-aloud.

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