One-Minute Book Reviews

February 22, 2007

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

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.


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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