The Higher Power of Lucky (Lucky Trimble Series #1)
  • The Higher Power of Lucky (Lucky Trimble Series #1)
  • The Higher Power of Lucky (Lucky Trimble Series #1)

The Higher Power of Lucky (Lucky Trimble Series #1)

3.9 45
by Susan Patron, Matt Phelan
     
 

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Believing that her French guardian is about to abandon her to an orphanage in the city, ten-year-old Lucky runs away from her small town with her beloved dog by her side in order to trek across the Mojave Desert in this Newbery Medal–winning novel from Susan Patron.

Lucky, age ten, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices

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Overview

Believing that her French guardian is about to abandon her to an orphanage in the city, ten-year-old Lucky runs away from her small town with her beloved dog by her side in order to trek across the Mojave Desert in this Newbery Medal–winning novel from Susan Patron.

Lucky, age ten, can't wait another day. The meanness gland in her heart and the crevices full of questions in her brain make running away from Hard Pan, California (population 43), the rock-bottom only choice she has.

It's all Brigitte's fault — for wanting to go back to France. Guardians are supposed to stay put and look after girls in their care! Instead Lucky is sure that she'll be abandoned to some orphanage in Los Angeles where her beloved dog, HMS Beagle, won't be allowed. She'll have to lose her friends Miles, who lives on cookies, and Lincoln, future U.S. president (maybe) and member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers. Just as bad, she'll have to give up eavesdropping on twelve-step anonymous programs where the interesting talk is all about Higher Powers. Lucky needs her own — and quick.

But she hadn't planned on a dust storm.

Or needing to lug the world's heaviest survival-kit backpack into the desert.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* “Patron [is] a master of light but sure characterization and closely observed detail. A small gem.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Lucky is a true heroine.”—Booklist

Publishers Weekly

Patron's poignant Newbery-winning story about a girl who fears being abandoned by her legal guardian—and her only semblance of a family—sails along with believable childlike rhythms and kid's-eye-view observations. Listeners will especially appreciate Campbell's subtlety and smooth, comforting delivery in a heartbreaking scene in which 10-year-old Lucky recalls, with gentle support from her best friend, her deceased mother's memorial service. On the remainder of the recording, Campbell remains a welcoming guide to Lucky's world—populated by eccentric friends, the quirky townspeople of tiny, struggling Hard Pan, Calif.—and Brigitte, the guardian she desperately wants to keep, maybe with some help from a Higher Power. Campbell appropriately gives recent Parisian transplant Brigitte a French accent, though it's thankfully never overplayed. By program's end, listeners will be rooting for Lucky and Brigitte to remain together forever. Contains an interview with the author, in which Patron says she is working on a companion novel. Ages 9-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Eavesdropping on the meetings of "the anonymous people" (Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous), ten-year-old Lucky yearns to find her own "higher power" that will help her deal with the death of her mother, abandonment by her father, and the fear that her French guardian, her father's first wife, Brigitte, will return to Paris. As Brigitte's departure from tiny, isolated Hard Pan, California, seems ever more imminent (picky question: with population 43, where do all the attendees of these "anonymous meetings" come from?), Lucky decides that her only option is to shoulder her survival-kit backpack and run away into a desert sandstorm. Although the studied small-town eccentricities of Hard Pan are too heavily underlined (the anonymous meetings are held at the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, near Dot's Baubles 'n' Beauty Salon; Lucky's best friend, Lincoln Clinton Carter Kennedy, is a member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers, etc.), Lucky's mix of meanness and big-heartedness makes her a multi-dimensional character whose predicament is compelling. Many readers will identify with Lucky's inchoate feeling that "sometimes [she] wanted to change everything, all the bad things that had happened, and some times she wanted everything to stay the same forever." Don't we all.
Phyllis Thompson
At ten years old, Lucky has hit rock bottom: her biological mother is dead, her father is "absent," and her most loyal companion in the world, HMS Beagle, leaves her in a dust storm in the desert. Lucky's life is spinning out of control. It is not until she heads into the Mojave desert that she charts her own course and gains the perspective to take control of her life. However, holed up in a cave during a dust storm, she finds herself caring for a scared five-year old named Miles, who is also lost and motherless, instead of forging ahead with her own quest for stability and control. Hard Pan (pop. 34) is every town, and Lucky is every kid, whose issue is abandonment, whose life is complicated, and who knows one doesn't have to be an adult to hit rock bottom. The Higher Power of Lucky is a story about vision and about the perseverance it takes to wait for the storm to pass and the dust to settle. Reviewer: Phyllis Thompson
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-When Lucky's mother is electrocuted and dies after a storm, Lucky's absentee father calls his ex-wife, Brigitte, to fly over from France to take care of the child. Two years later, the 10-year-old worries that Brigitte is tired of being her guardian and of their life in Hard Pan (pop. 42) in the middle of the California desert. While Lucky's best friend ties intricate knots and the little boy down the road cries for attention, she tries to get some control over her life by restocking her survival kit backpack and searching for her "Higher Power." This character-driven novel has an unusually complicated backstory, and a fair amount of exposition. Yet, its quirky cast and local color help to balance this fact, and the desert setting is fascinating. Lucky's tendency to jump to conclusions is frustrating, but her struggle to come to terms with her mother's death and with her new life ring true. Phelan's cover and line drawings are simple and evocative, a perfect complement to the text. Fans of novels by Deborah Wiles and Katherine Hannigan will be happy to meet Lucky.-Adrienne Furness, Webster Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The facts of Lucky's life in Hard Pan, Calif. (population 43), scarcely qualify her as "lucky." One parent is dead and the other disinterested. Her future with her unemployed French guardian Brigitte, who was tricked into caring for her, feels uncertain. When Lucky discovers that Brigitte is taking an online course in restaurant management from Paris, she anticipates being abandoned. To find her higher power and take control of her life, Lucky runs away in a dust storm, hoping to cause worry, sadness and a change of Brigitte's heart. Potential disaster leads to Lucky's discovery that Brigitte loves her, which helps her come to terms with her mother's death. The plot is not what elevates Lucky's memorable story. Hard Pan may be lightly populated, but every soul is uniquely unforgettable, from 5-year-old Miles, shameless cookie hustler, to Lincoln, serious knot-tying addict. Readers will gladly give themselves over to Patron, a master of light but sure characterization and closely observed detail. A small gem. (Fiction. 9-11)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416901945
Publisher:
Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Publication date:
02/16/2007
Series:
Lucky Trimble Series, #1
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
753,319
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 0.60(h) x 9.00(d)
Lexile:
1010L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt

1.

eavesdropping

Lucky Trimble crouched in a wedge of shade behind the Dumpster. Her ear near a hole in the paint-chipped wall of Hard Pan's Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, she listened as Short Sammy told the story of how he hit rock bottom. How he quit drinking and found his Higher Power. Short Sammy's story, of all the rock-bottom stories Lucky had heard at twelve-step anonymous meetings — alcoholics, gamblers, smokers, and overeaters — was still her favorite.

Sammy told of the day when he had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked '62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.

Lucky balanced herself with a hand above the little hole that Short Sammy's voice was coming out of. With her other hand, she lifted the way-too-curly hair off her neck. She noticed two small black birds nearby, panting like dogs from the heat, their beaks open, their feathers puffed up. She put her ear to the hole because Sammy's voice always got low and soft when he came to the tragical end of the story.

But Short Sammy didn't head right to the good part. 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 got quite a bit longer than if someone else had been telling it.

She stood up, her neck and the backs of her knees sweating, and mashed wads of hair up under the edges of her floppy hat. She carefully angled an old lawn chair with frayed webbing into her wedge of shade, and made sure the chair wouldn't break by easing herself onto it. Flies came, the little biting ones; she fanned them away with her plastic dustpan. Heat blasted off the Dumpster.

There was a little silence, except for the wobbly ticking noise of the ceiling fan inside and people shifting in their folding metal chairs. She was pretty sure they had already heard the story of Short Sammy hitting rock bottom before, as she had, and that they loved the pure glory and splendiferousness of it as much as she did — even though it was hard to imagine Short Sammy being drunk. Short Sammy's voice sounded like it could barely stand to say what came next.

"That Roy, man," said Sammy, who called everyone "man," even people like Lucky who were not men. "He was one brave dog. He killed that snake even though it bit him in the place where it hurts the worst for a male. And there I am, trying to get away, falling out of the Cad. I break a tooth, I cut my cheek, I give myself a black eye, I even sprain my ankle, but I'm so drunk, man, I don't even know I'm messed up — not till much later. Then I pass out.

"Next day I wake up on the ground, sand in my mouth, and it feels like death. I mean, it's like I died, man, but at the same time, like I'm too sick and ashamed to be dead. There's a mangled rattlesnake under the car, there's blood, lots of blood — I don't even know if it's my blood or Roy's or the snake's. Roy's gone. I call him — nothing. I figure maybe after saving my stupid life he went off to die alone somewhere. It's probably like a hundred degrees in the shade, man, about as hot as it is now, but I'm so cold I can't stop shivering."

Lucky's hands smelled metallic, like the thin arms of the lawn chair; they felt sticky. She pushed her hat back from her forehead; air cooled the sweat there.

"I make this deal with myself," Sammy continued. "The deal is if Roy is okay I'll quit drinking, join AA, get clean."

Lucky edged her bare leg away from a rough, poking strand of chair webbing. Each time Short Sammy came to this part in his story, Lucky thought of what kind of deal she would make with herself if she hit rock bottom. Like, let's say she didn't know if her dog, HMS Beagle, was alive or dead; she would have to do something really hard and drastic as her end of the bargain. Or, let's say that her Guardian just gave up and quit because Lucky did something terrible. The difference between a Guardian and an actual mom is that a mom can't resign. A mom has the job for life. But a Guardian like Brigitte could probably just say, "Well, that's about it for this job. I'm going back to France now. Au revoir." There poor Lucky would be, standing alone in the kitchen trailer, at rock bottom. Then she would have to search for her own Higher Power and do a fearless and searching moral inventory of herself, just like Short Sammy and all the other anonymous people had had to do.

Short Sammy went on, "Then my wife drives up. Man, I didn't even know she'd gone. I'm still kind of laying there on the ground. She gets out of her car, but she doesn't say one word about how messed up I am.

"All she says is, 'I took Roy to the vet's in Sierra City.' She's talking real calm, almost like she's not mad or anything. She says, 'Fifty miles from here, and I drove it in, like, maybe half an hour. That was the worst drive of my life, Sammy, thanks to you. But Roy's okay because I got him there in time for the antivenom to work.'

"Then she goes into the house and comes out with her suitcases that she must have packed the night before, and Roy's food dish and water bowl. That killed me, her taking his food dish and water bowl. All she says to me is, 'Don't call me.' That, man, was rock bottom. So I threw down the shovel. And here I am."

There was clapping, and Lucky knew that pretty soon they would pass a hat around for people to put money in. It was a little disappointing that today nobody had explained how exactly they had found their Higher Power, which was what Lucky was mainly interested in finding out about.

She didn't get why finding it was so hard. The anonymous people often talked about getting control of their lives through their Higher Power. 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.

Chairs scraped as everyone stood up. Now they would all say a little prayer together, which Lucky liked because there was no church or synagogue or anything in Hard Pan, California, so the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center was the closest they got to one. That meant the end of the meeting and time for her to disappear quick. She'd finished her job of clearing trash from the patio in front — smashed beer cans and candy wrappers from yesterday's Gamblers Anonymous meeting. It wasn't likely that anyone would be coming back to the Dumpster behind the museum, but someone might. She had to hurry, but she had to hurry slowly, in order not to make a sound.

She stashed her dustpan and rake beside the wall and left the aluminum lawn chair hidden behind the Dumpster. Tomorrow, Saturday, would be her day off. Then on Sunday afternoon, before the Smokers Anonymous meeting, she would again clean up the museum's little patio. The patio was where the anonymous people sat around talking after their meetings. All the anonymous people left lots of litter, and each group could not bear to see the butts or the cans or the candy wrappers of the group that met before it. The reason was that they were in recovery. The recovering alcoholics hated to see or smell beer cans left by the recovering smokers and gamblers; the recovering smokers could not stand cigarette butts left by the recovering drinkers, and the recovering overeaters hated to see candy wrappers left by the recovering drinkers, smokers, and gamblers.Which meant that Lucky had a job — a great job — and except for Dot's kitchen-and-back-porch Baubles 'n' Beauty Salon and the Captain's mail-sorting job at the post office, it was the only paying job in town.

Wrestling with the straps of her survival kit backpack, which she had with her at all times, then jogging down the dry streambed toward home, Lucky thought of a question that Short Sammy's story had lodged into one of her brain crevices. She figured she had so many crevices and wrinkles, almost all of them filled with questions and anxious thoughts, that if you were to take her brain and flatten it out, it would cover a huge space, like maybe a king-size bed.

The question of Short Sammy's dog's scrotum settled into one certain brain crevice as she picked her way among the weedy bushes of the dry wash. Even though Lucky could ask Short Sammy almost anything and he wouldn't mind, she could never ask about the story of Roy, since she had overheard it. If she asked about Roy, then he would know that she'd been eavesdropping at the anonymous twelve-step meetings.

Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important, and Lucky was glad she was a girl and would never have such an aspect as a scrotum to her own body. Deep inside she thought she would be interested in seeing an actual scrotum. But at the same time — and this is where Lucky's brain was very complicated — she definitely did not want to see one.

A little breeze had come up by the time she got home to the half circle of trailers. First was her little shiny aluminum canned-ham trailer, where she and HMS Beagle slept. Next, the long kitchen-dining room-bathroom trailer, and last, Brigitte's Westcraft bedroom trailer. Instead of having wheels and being hooked up to cars to tow them around, the three trailers were mounted on concrete blocks; plus they were anchored to the ground with metal cables to keep from being blown over in windstorms. The best part was that you could walk from Lucky's canned ham to Brigitte's Westcraft without ever going outside, because passageways had been cut where the trailers' ends touched, and sheets of metal had been shaped and soldered together to join all three trailers, so not even a mouse would be able to find a crack or an opening anywhere.

HMS Beagle bounded out from under the kitchen trailer to smell her and find out where she had been. "HMS" stands for "His Majesty's Ship," and the actual original HMS Beagle was a beautiful ship that took the scientist Charles Darwin all around the world on exciting discoveries. Lucky's dog — who was neither a ship nor a beagle — got her name because of always being with Lucky on her scientific adventures. Also, HMS Beagle was beautiful, with very short brown fur, little dog-eyebrows that moved when she was thinking, and big ear flaps that you could see the veins inside of if you held them up to the light.

A breeze rattled the found object wind chimes at the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, and the high desert air carried that sound in front of it, all the way across town, down to the three trailers at the very end of Hard Pan. Just the sound of those chimes made Lucky feel cooler. But she still had doubts and anxious questions in all the crevices of her brain, especially about how to find her Higher Power.

If she could only find it, Lucky was pretty sure she'd be able to figure out the difference between the things she could change and the things she couldn't, like in the little prayer of the anonymous people. Because sometimes Lucky wanted to change everything, all the bad things that had happened, and sometimes she wanted everything to stay the same forever.

Text copyright © 2006 by Susan Patron

Illustrations copyright © 2006 by Matt Phelan

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