One-Minute Book Reviews

February 28, 2007

Delete Key Awards Finalist #10: ‘Hannibal Rising’ by Thomas Harris

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Delete Key Awards,Reading,Writing — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:07 am

“Our family, we are somewhat unusual people, Hannibal.”

Nobody sold out his fans more ruthlessly in 2006 than did Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs and other books about the cannibalistic sociopath Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal’s depravity has always defied explanation. And Harris’s attempt to rationalize it in Hannibal Rising (Delacorte) was like trying to explain the actions King Kong by describing what happened to him when he was a baby gorilla.

Writing sample:
An uncle tells young Hannibal: “Our family, we are somewhat unusual people, Hannibal.” So that explains why Hannibal cut off a human face and used it to escape in The Silence of the Lambs. Better call your Uncle Ed – fast! — and find about the “unusual people” in your family before your cousin in med school makes a shish kabob of human flesh the way Hannibal does in Hannibal Rising. Another example of the ludicrously stilted prose turns up when Harris writes, “Hannibal walked Lady Murasaki to her very chamber door …” As opposed to her “not very” chamber door?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

[Hannibal Rising is the first of 10 Delete Key Awards finalists being announced today. The finalists are being posted in random order and numbered only for convenience.]

 

February 27, 2007

The Year’s Worst Writing in Books — About the Finalists for the 2007 Delete Key Awards, To Be Announced Tomorrow

Filed under: Book Awards,Books,Delete Key Awards,Reading,Writing — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:32 pm

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists 2007 Delete Key Awards tomorrow morning, Wednesday, Feb. 28. The first book to make the short list will be named at about 10 a.m. with other titles released throughout the day. The full list of finalists will be posted by 5 p.m. Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS to avoid missing the list, and forward this post to others who may be interested.

Questions and Answers About the Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Why do we need the Delete Key Awards?
When you go bed with a book, you should be able to respect yourself in the morning. Unfortunately, too many publishers don’t realize this.

Who is eligible for a Delete Key Award?
Anybody who has had a book published in hardcover or paperback in the U.S. in 2006, including reprints. One-Minute Book Reviews is the sole judge of when a book was published if there’s a conflict between the official publication date, the on-sale date, the date listed on Amazon.com, or the date when Janice Harayda first saw it in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. That’s the beauty of the Delete Key Awards. They’re completely arbitrary.

Why are the awards for “the worst writing in books” instead of “the worst books”?
The overall quality of a book can involve matters of taste and judgment. The Delete Key Awards recognize bad writing that doesn’t involve those questions. They call attention to such things as clichés, bad grammar, or writing at an elementary-school level according to the readability statistics on Microsoft Word. The listing for each finalist will give an example of the bad writing in the book and explain what’s wrong with it.

How did you select the finalists?
At the end of each review on One-Minute Book Reviews, you’ll find the best and worst lines in the book. The finalists came from the “worst” lines. But all of the selected examples of bad writing are typical of what you’ll find in the book that made the short list. No author became a finalist because of one or two bad lines.

Why are you picking on struggling authors?
First, “struggling authors” is a cliché. Strike it from your vocabulary. Second, I’m not picking on those people. Most of the Delete Key Awards finalists are rich. If they’re not rich, they’re influential.

When will you announce the winner or winners of the Delete Key Awards?
Visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews will be able to comment on the finalists for two weeks, and the winner or winners will be named on March 15. I’m announcing the winner or winners on the Ides of March because Julius Caesar was assassinated then, and some of the finalists have assassinated the English language. I hope to post the best comments from visitors when I announce the winner(s).

Why are you announcing the finalists one at a time instead of all at once?
It will provide more entertainment for people who are bored at work. And there are so many bad writers in the U.S., my site my crash if they all rushed over at once to see if I’d recognized their contributions to American literature.

Why are you qualified to pick the winner of the Delete Key Awards?
One-Minute Book Reviews doesn’t accept free books or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents, or authors whose books may be reviewed on the site. So the reviews aren’t affected by the marketing considerations that sometimes affect the decisions of others.

I also received more than 400 books a week during my 11 years as the book editor of The Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. These included Knitting With Dog Hair, which is still in print. Critics laughed when the book was published. But Knitting With Dog Hair looks like Madame Bovary compared with some of the book on the list of finalists.

I’m fed up with bad writing in books. How can I support the Delete Key Awards?
First, send a link to this post to people who might like to have it, especially bloggers and media and publishing types. Second, keep visiting my site throughout the day tomorrow, Feb. 28, to see names of new finalists. This could help One-Minute Book Reviews make it onto the list of the “Blogs of the Day” on WordPress, so even more people will see it. The last time I made the list I wrote in a review of For One More Day about my discovery that Mitch Albom is writing at a third-grade level. [Note for overseas visitors: Third-graders in the U.S. are typically eight years old.] That post is archived in the “Novels” category on this site. I’d like to see if I could make it into the WordPress Top 10 on my own without so much help from Mitch.

So is Mitch Albom is a finalist?
You’ll have to check back tomorrow for the answer to that one.

Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent book-review blog created by Janice Harayda, an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor and critic for The Plain Dealer, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. Please visit www.janiceharayda.com for information about her comedies of manners The Accidental Bride (St. Martin’s, 1999) and Manhattan on the Rocks (Sourcebooks, 2004).

Ishmael Beah, Soldier Boy in Sierra Leone

Filed under: African American,Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A young author with a “photographic memory” writes of learning to use an AK-47

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Sarah Crichton, 229 pp., $22.

By Janice Harayda

At the age of 13, Ishmael Beah practiced for combat in his native Sierra Leone by “stabbing the banana trees with bayonets.” He had fled into the bush months earlier, carrying a few cassettes by LL Cool J and other rappers, when rebel forces attacked village and scattered his family.

Beah stayed on the run, near starvation, until captured by government soldiers who promised that if he joined the army, he would have food and a chance to avenge the loss of parents. Afraid he would be shot if he refused, he became part of a squad of boys between the ages of 7 and 16 who learned to use AK-47s and other weapons against the rebels who were still terrorizing the countryside. He also became addicted to the marijuana, cocaine mixed with gunpowder, and “white tablets” – presumably amphetamines – that the army gave young conscripts to ease their fears and keep them awake on patrol. For more than two years, he says, killing was “a daily activity” that he describes in chilling detail in A Long Way Gone. Then one day United Nations workers showed up – as unexpectedly as rebels had attacked his old village — and demanded that the army release some of boys, including Beah, who made his way to Guinea and from there to New York.

These experiences make for a story that, if gripping, is at times hard to believe, and not just because the killings it describes are so savage. Now 26 years old, Beah could not have taken many notes as a soldier, because their discovery could have led to his death. Instead, he implies, he relied his “photographic memory” in telling his story. But you wonder if that memory might have been impaired by near-starvation or the chronic use of drugs, an issue that A Long Way Gone doesn’t address. And some of the events seem implausible regardless. In one scene Beah tells how he and several friends “lay in the dirt” on a coffee farm near a ruined village and eavesdropped on rebels who played cards and chatted “for hours.” He says he heard one rebel say that his group had just burned three villages:

“Another rebel, the only one dressed in full army gear, agreed with him. ‘Yes, three is impressive, in just a few hours in the afternoon.’ He paused, playing with the side of his G3 weapon. ‘I especially enjoyed burning this village. We caught everyone here. No one escaped. That is how good it was. We carried out the command and executed everyone. Commander will be pleased when he gets here.’ He nodded, looking at the rest of the rebels, who had stopped the game to listen to him. They all agreed with him, nodding their heads. They gave each other high fives and resumed their game.”

If Beah and his friends were close enough to hear that conversation, how did the rebels avoid hearing them “for hours”? If the boys could see a rebel “nod,” and others “nodding” in agreement, how could the rebels not see them? It appears that they could have avoided notice only by hiding behind bushes dense enough that neither group could see, or hear, the other.

Beah has described some of his wartime experiences at a United Nations conference and in other settings likely to have included experts who could have challenged aspects of his story that didn’t ring true. Even so, the tragic abuse of child soldiers is so important – and has received so little attention – that you wish he had made an airtight case for believing all that he has to say about it.

Best line: Beah writes his first visit to Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone: “I was amazed at how many lights there were without the sound of a generator.”

Worst line: The scene at the coffee farm, described above, is one of a number that make you question the accuracy of some of Beah’s recollections.

Editor: Sarah Crichton

Published: February 2007

Furthermore: On Feb. 15, A Long Way Gone replaced Mitch Albom’s For One More Day as the only book sold at Starbucks coffee shops in the United States.

Reading group guides: The site for Farrar, Straus www.fsgbooks.com has a reading group guide. An additional reading group guide to A Long Way Gone was posted on One-Minute Book Reviews on March 5. This unauthorized guide covers questions that do not appear in the official FSG guide. It is archived with the March posts and also in the Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides category.

Links: You can find other information at www.alongwaygone.com, the site for the book.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 26, 2007

What is a Classic? Quote of the Day #9

Filed under: Classics,Quotes of the Day,Science Fiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:42 pm

Italo Calvino on classic books …

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

Italo Calvino in “Why Read the Classics?,” translated by Patrick Creagh. As quoted in Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (Yale University Press, 2005), edited by Gary Westfahl, with a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke.

February 25, 2007

‘A Character Named Scrotum': More Funny Search Terms People Have Used to Find My Site

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Humor,Libraries,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:58 pm

On Friday I posted a list of the funniest search terms that people have used to find my site since Monday, when I began blogging about Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal from the American Library Association. A few more turned up over the weekend:

a character named scrotum

scrotum literary award

susan patron scrotum

janice harayda scrotum

I thought that the “janice harayda scrotum” came from a wag who had read my original post about the keywords, entitled “Barbara Walters Scrotum.” But I found accidentally that it had been used by a minister to whom I described a few of my seven or eight posts on The Higher Power of Lucky, including a review and a reading group guide. If ministers have no problem with “the s word,” why do some librarians?

By the way, I love that one of the links to my original review of The Higher Power of Lucky came from a site called Depraved Librarian http: www.depravedlibrarian.blogspot.com/. I never thought of librarians as “depraved. ” But if patrons keep asking librarians to help them find that book with “a character named scrotum,” it could take a toll on their sanity, don’t you think?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 24, 2007

A Bedtime Story for the ‘Goodnight Moon’ Set

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Caldecott Medals,Children's Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:28 am

A Caldecott Medalist returns with a book that may help toddlers and preschoolers fall asleep

So Sleepy Story. Uri Shulevitz. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 32 pp., $16. Ages: 2 and up.

By Janice Harayda

True story: I found this book in the third-floor children’s department of my public library, where a librarian recommended it to me. By the time I got to the checkout desk on the first floor, I was yawning just from looking at the cover. So Sleepy Story is so remarkably effective at making you feel sleepy that every time I tried to review it during the daytime, I had to put it aside, because I was afraid of nodding off. Imagine, parents, what this book could do for your children.

So Sleepy Story draws on a fact well-known to psychologists: Yawns are among the most contagious — perhaps the most contagious — of all forms of behavior. A lot of us will start to yawn, even if we’re not tired, just because we’re looking at someone who is. Or because we read the word “yawn” on the page. If I use the word “yawn” a couple more times in this review, you might be yawning by the end.

Uri Shulevitz makes brilliant use of this principle by beginning and ending his story with a picture of a house with a yawning “face.” He also uses pen-and-watercolor illustrations in muted colors that intensify the soporific effect. Goodnight Moon is a riot of color compared with So Sleepy Story, which looks so much more somber than many picture books that you might pass it up if you saw it on a shelf.

But that subdued quality is a part of what’s so effective about this tale of boy who wakes up in the night when music drifts into his room, then falls back to sleep. So is the heavy use of repetition of the word “sleepy,” which appears on almost every page, including the first: “In a sleepy sleepy house/everything is sleepy sleepy.” And because I’m getting a little sleepy from writing this, I’ll end by saying that the book includes a series of pictures of dishes with human faces that pay homage to Randolph Caldecott’s famous illustrations for the nursery rhyme about the dish that ran away with the spoon. So Sleepy Story may especially appeal to a child who sometimes wakes up at night and needs a little help getting back to sleep … and isn’t that just about every child?

Furthermore: Uri Shulevitz won a Caldecott Medal for The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, written with Arthur Radsome. And some librarians thought that So Sleep Story had a good shot at this year’s medal, which went to David Wiesner’s Flotsam.

Published: August 2006

Links: www.fsgkidsbooks.com

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 23, 2007

‘Barbara Walters Scrotum’ and Other Funny Search Terms People Have Used to Find My Site This Week

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Humor,Libraries,Newbery Medals,News,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:58 pm

The most amusing keywords or keyphrases of the week

I have blogged frequently this week about Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, which uses the word “scrotum” on the first page and won the American Library Association’s 2007 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished work of children’s literature. My posts included a comment about a segment of The View on which Barbara Walters read aloud a dictionary definition of “scrotum.”

People have entered some pretty funny keywords or keyphrases into their search bars as a result all of this. And because a lot of those people have ended up at One-Minute Book Reviews, their search terms have showed up on my “Blog Stats” page. Some of the most amusing appear below. My blog stats don’t show which of these terms originally included a plus sign or the word “and.” Some of these terms appeared in quotes and some didn’t.

lucky scrotum
patron scrotum
Barbara Walters scrotum
library scrotum
Newbery scrotum
scrotum book

view walters scrotum book

For those of you who may want to keep your “scrotum” in perspective, I posted a detailed review of The Higher Power of Lucky on Monday and a reading group guide to the book on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, I will announce on this site the finalists for the first annual Delete Key Awards, which recognize the year’s worst writing in books. The announcement will include examples of bad writing from from books on the short list. You may find some of these funny, too. The winner of the Delete Key Awards will be announced on March 15, the Ideas of March.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

Coming Soon to One-Minute Book Reviews

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:04 pm

These books and others will be reviewed soon on One-Minute Book Reviews:

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah. The book that replaced Mitch Albom’s For One More Day in Starbucks stores. Did Starbucks do better this time?

Inside My Heart: Choosing to Live With Passion and Purpose, by Robin McGraw. Dr. Phil’s wife writes about his vasectomy reversal and more.

Living Things: Collected Poems, by Anne Porter with a foreword by David Shapiro. The return of a poet whose An Altogether Different Language was a National Book Award finalist.

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama, by Laura Amy Schlitz. The children’s novel that some people thought should have won the Newbery Medal that went to The Higher Power of Lucky.

So Sleepy Story, by Uri Shulevitz. A bedtime story by a Caldecott Medalist.

Please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed to avoid missing these and other reviews.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 22, 2007

Six Reasons Why ‘That Scrotum Book’ Might Have Won the 2007 Newbery Medal Despite the ‘S Word’

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Libraries,Newbery Medals,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:05 pm

What were those librarians thinking? A former book awards judge offers possible answers

By Janice Harayda

First, I have no inside knowledge of the workings of committee that gave the 2007 Newbery Medal to The Higher Power of Lucky, which uses the word “scrotum” on the first page. Second, if I did have it, I would be skeptical, because the leakers in book awards contests are often judges who are sore that their choices didn’t win.

But I have followed the American Library Association’s awards for years and, as a journalist, and have interviewed former members of the Caldecott committee, which awards the prizes for picture books. I have also served as vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle and, as such, helped to judge its annual awards program.

Based on that experience, I’d like to offer a half dozen possible reasons why the Newbery judges might have given the 2007 medal to Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky:

1) The majority of the Newbery committe thought The Higher Power of Lucky really was the most distinguished work of children’s literature published in 2006. If so, I disagree. But the committee made a defensible choice. This was not one of those ALA awards — and there have been more than a few of these — that make you say, “Was the medal winner threatening to go public with Britney Spears-type crotch shots of the Newbery committee members?” I am fully prepared to believe that somebody did have crotch shots of the librarians during the years when they gave no award to Tuck Everlasting and only an Honor Book citation to Charlotte’s Web.

2) The librarians thought that the word “scrotum” was no big deal in a novel for 9-to-11-year-olds given that you regularly hear 3- and 4-year-olds saying “penis” and “vagina.” If so, I agree.

3) The Higher Power of Lucky is upbeat. The ALA committees tend to favor books that are upbeat, unlike the judges of adult books, who often seem to equate bleakness with meaning. This could explain why the organization didn’t honor Tuck Everlasting. Although Patron’s heroine doesn’t have an easy life, The Higher Power of Lucky has a happy ending.

4) Apart from its use of “scrotum,” The Higher Power of Lucky won’t offend anybody. Yes, that’s a big “apart from.” But this is plausible. The ALA choices don’t really honor the most distinguished books for children so much as the most distinguished books that librarians can recommend to everybody. And Patron’s book meets the current tests of ideological “correctness” (with, for example, a young heroine who likes science and isn’t afraid of snakes).

5) Book awards often to go everybody’s second choice. Again, this happens in book contests of all kinds. Often prize judges disagree so strongly about which book should win that they all have to abandon their first choices and pick a title that everybody can agree on. So the award goes to everybody’s second choice instead of a few people’s first. Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is much richer and more complex than The Higher Power of Lucky. But it is so clearly a Christian allegory – with a full-page picture of a crucified rabbit and many biblical parallels – that you can see how librarians who preferred it might have had trouble building a consensus.

6) Susan Patron is a librarian and the librarians were “taking care of their own.” Could be. Patron has worked for years as a librarian in Los Angeles, which has one of the largest public libraries in the country. I would be surprised if she hadn’t served on Newbery or Caldecott committees or didn’t know some of the librarians who helped her get nominated. And personal ties can play a role in who wins book awards. Undercutting this idea is that the ALA didn’t “take care of” Laura Amy Schlitz, a Baltimore librarian who wrote the gripping A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, the Wall Street Journal called “a classic” and was many people’s first choice for the award.

Which explanation is most likely? I don’t know. But I do know that every bookstore and library has many books that children could enjoy as much as The Higher Power of Lucky. Most of those books will never win medals from anyone.

For a review of The Higher Power of Lucky, please see the Feb. 19 post on One-Minute Book Reviews, archived in the Children’s Books category. You can find more information in the Reading Group Guide to the novel posted on this site yesterday.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

Reading Group Guide to ‘The Higher Power of Lucky’ for Libraries

10 Discussion Questions for Young Readers

The Higher Power of Lucky
By Susan Patron with Illustrations by Matt Phelan
Winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal

Libraries may reproduce this guide for use in their reading programs as long as the byline, copyright line, and URL for One-Minute Book Reviews appear on it. Others who want to use this guide should link to this site or request permission from the e-mail address on the “Contact” page.

By Janice Harayda
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
One-Minute Book Reviews
www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

Lucky Trimble, age 10, lives with her dog in a cozy trailer that looks like a “shiny aluminum canned ham.” And she wants to stay there – at least until she becomes a world-famous scientist. But Lucky worries that her guardian will go back to France and she’ll have to go to orphanage. To avoid that fate, Lucky decides to run away. This decision brings results that are at first worse, and then much better, than anything she had imagined.

Question 1
This book is about a 10-year-old fifth-grader named Lucky. Lucky’s mother has died, her father isn’t around, and she lives with her guardian, Brigitte. You might say, “Lucky doesn’t sound lucky to me.” Why do you think Susan Patron (pa-TRONE) gave her that name? What are some of the ways Lucky is lucky?

Question 2
At first, you might think that Lucky doesn’t have any family, because she doesn’t live with relatives like parents, grandparents, or brothers and sisters. But after a while you may see that Lucky has created her own kind of “family.” Who are some of the members? What does this book teach you about families?

Question 3
Lucky eavesdrops on people who go to meetings and talk about the bad things that happened because they drank too much liquor. She notices that some people talk fast and get straight to the point of what they have to say. A man named Short Sammy is different. He doesn’t “head right to the good part” of his story:

“To stretch it out and get more suspense going for the big ending, he veered off and told about the old days when he was broke and couldn’t afford to buy rum, so he made homemade liquor from cereal box raisins and any kind of fruit he could scrounge up. This was the usual roundabout way he talked, and Lucky had noticed that it made people stay interested, even if the story had got quite a bit longer than if someone else had been telling it.” [Page 2]

Is Susan Patron sometimes like Short Sammy? Does she veer off and talk about Lucky’s “old days” to keep you interested? When does she this? What do you learn about Lucky from the stories of her “old days”? Would you have been as interested in Lucky if you didn’t know about those things?

Question 4
Lucky overhears people talking at meetings about finding a “Higher Power” that helped them feel more in control of their lives. She wishes she could find one, too.

“Being ten and a half, Lucky felt like she had no control over her life – partly because she wasn’t grown up yet – but that if she found her Higher Power it would guide her in the right direction.” [Page 5]

Later Lucky sees ants working together in an ant colony. She thinks that “to an ant, its Higher Power might be the whole colony itself.” [Page 21] Does this tell you anything about what kind of “Higher Power” Lucky wants to find? Does she eventually find it? What is the “Higher Power” of Lucky?

Question 5
Lucky lives in a desert in California called the Mojave. What did you learn about the desert from The Higher Power of Lucky? Why do you think Susan Patron chose to have Lucky live there? What are some things that Lucky could do where she lives that you couldn’t do where you live?

Question 6
You may have noticed that the weather in the desert plays big role in The Higher Power of Lucky. Weather is important in a lot of other stories, too. That’s partly because the weather affects what the characters can – and can’t – do. And storms are often symbols of emotions. In this book the desert gets hit by a storm with “fifty-five-mile- per-hour winds.” [Page 94] Do you think that Lucky’s feelings were ever stormy, too? When? At the end of the book, what happened to the windstorm? What has happened to any stormy feelings that Lucky might have had?

Question 7
Lucky has a friend named Lincoln who loves to tie knots. He “knows how to tie a million different ones, plus bends and hitches.” [Page 17] You can look at those knots in many ways. For example, the knots could symbolize Lincoln’s feelings. Lincoln may at times feel tied up in knots because his parents disagree about whether he should be thinking about becoming president. The knots could also remind you of the “bends and hitches” in the plot of this book. The most interesting knot is “the
Ten-Strand Round Knot” that Lincoln gives Lucky. [Page 67]

“The neat round buttonlike knot had no cord ends sticking out that might unwind.” [Page 68]

You could see this round knot as a symbol of the life Lucky wants – one with no loose ends. A circle can also symbolize “unbroken love.” What do you think the round knot represents to Lucky? What have you seen in your own life that’s a circle and means “unbroken love”?

Question 8
Susan Patron uses the word “scrotum” on the first page of The Higher Power of Lucky and elsewhere in it. [Pages 1, 6, 7, 132] She explains that a scrotum is “a little sac” in a man or animal that “has in it the sperm to make a baby.” [Page 132] Some adults thought that she shouldn’t have put that word in a book for people your age.
Do you agree or disagree with those adults? Why?

Question 9
Some librarians have said that they aren’t going to get The Higher Power of Lucky for their libraries because it has the word “scrotum” in it. What would you say to those librarians?

Question 10
Characters often have names that tell you something about them. In the past you may have read picture books about a dog named Spot the Pup. Even if you haven’t read those books, you could probably figure out that Spot has … spots! Many characters in the Harry Potter novels also have names that tell you something about them. You can learn more about their names by searching the Internet for “Meanings of Harry Potter Character Names.” What books have you read that have characters whose names help you understand them? When you read a book, always ask yourself: Why does a character have this name? The author of a book may be giving you a clue to a theme of the book.

Vital statistics:
The Higher Power of Lucky. By Susan Patron. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. Atheneum: A Richard Jackson Book, 134 pp., $21.99.

Links: www.simonsays.com

If you found this guide helpful, please consider adding One-Minute Book Reviews to the “Ready Reference” links at your library, so patrons can find other guides and reviews. One-Minute Book Reviews accepts no advertising and has been approved by, and appears on, Open Directory lists. Janice Harayda is an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

The guide is copyrighted by Janice Harayda. It is illegal for any person or institution, including students and schools, to copy or sell this guide. This guide may be reproduced only by library staff members for use in library reading groups. Please link to One-Minute Book Reviews if you want others to know about this guide and do not work for a library.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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