The Higher Power of Lucky, Susan Paton, Atheneum Books, 2006, 134pp
This is the book that won the Newbery Award for 2007 and sparked a loud controversy because it contains the word scrotum. So ridiculous. Ten year old Lucky Trimble lives in a trailer in the high desert of California with her guardian Brigette. Lucky's mother died when Lucky was nine and Brigette is the former wife of Lucky's father, who abandoned Lucky's mother when Lucky was born. The father doesn't like children.
But now Lucky is worried that Brigette is planning to return to her home in France. Lucky has a part-time job sweeping the patio of the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, where the many different 12 step program groups hold their meetings: Alcoholics Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, etc. Lucky calls them the anonymous people and likes to eavesdrop on the meetings to hear the stories of how they hit rock bottom and found their higher power.
She also has a best friend named Lincoln who only cares about tying knots. Then there is 5 year old Miles who would prefer to live on cookies and who totes around a battered copy of Are You My Mother? (he lives with his grandmother.)
So to convince Brigette not to leave, Lucky does a dramatic and scary thing. As in all Newbery Award winning books, she meets with life threatening dangers and uses smarts and pluck to survive. There is a happy and sob-inducing ending.
I used to play gigs at a coffeehouse in Joshua Tree, a high desert town full of losers, loners and bail bond offices. Patron gets her invented town of Hard Pan just right. When I was a single mom and always dumping my kids with my sister and various babysitters, my 5 year old son's favorite picture book was Are You My Mother? I loved The Higher Power of Lucky, but then I totally got all the references to the 12 step programs and other fairly sophisticated concepts. I wonder if kids 9-11 would get it. I have not yet met a kid who has read the book. Have you?
Oh yes, and right near the end, Patron defines scrotum--correctly.