This slice-of-life fiction book by Susan Patron is published by Richard Jackson Books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing and is written for kids 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Ten-year-old Lucky lives in the tiny desert town of Hard Pan, Calif., with Brigitte, her father's former wife, who is from France. Lucky works after school at Short Sammy's Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, where she sweeps up after various 12-step meetings. Listening through a hole in the wall, Lucky becomes enthralled as 12-step members, whom she calls "anonymous people," talk about finding their Higher Power. When Brigitte becomes homesick, Lucky worries that Brigitte will leave her and return to France. Lucky devises a plan to take control of her own life and run away from home. After being trapped in and rescued from a dust storm, Lucky finally feels strong enough to scatter her dead mother's ashes (an idea previously too painful for her to consider) and return home. Then Brigitte makes plans to legally adopt Lucky.
Lucky searches for her Higher Power after overhearing people in several 12-step programs talk about finding theirs. She notes how people in these groups usually have to hit rock bottom and complete a fearless moral inventory before they find their Higher Power. She likes how the 12-step meetings end with a prayer. The implication is that since people prayed in the museum, it was the nearest thing the city had to a church or synagogue. As Lucky ceremonially scatters her mother's ashes, friends and townspeople sing "Amazing Grace," and Lucky finally feels that a Higher Power is paying attention to her.
Lucky's mother was killed in a storm two years before the story begins. Lucky barely knows her father. She even mistakes him for the undertaker at her mother's funeral. Lucky's father asks his first wife, Brigette, to take care of his daughter. She moves from France to be Lucky's guardian. Brigette is a kind but somewhat distant caregiver who pines for her native land, which causes Lucky to live in fear that Brigitte will leave. Lucky's absent father sends small checks to help Brigitte pay for Lucky's care. In the end, Brigitte is more demonstrative in her love for Lucky. Short Sammy is a kindly recovering alcoholic who befriends Lucky and her pals. He leads the 12-step meetings at the museum.
Other Belief Systems
Lucky's favorite scientist is Charles Darwin. She mentions him several times throughout the book. Her several remarks about evolution indicate her belief that it's simply a scientific reality. When several random and unusual events occur one day, Lucky believes they are signs that are telling her that it's the right time to run away. The signs are a look that passes between her and a friend that seems to indicate that he understands her; the realization that her skin and hair color will help her blend into the desert; and the early dismissal of her class due to a dust storm.
Short Sammy tells the people in his 12-step meeting that a snake once bit his dog on the scrotum. Lucky overhears the account and ponders the word scrotum throughout the book. In the end, Lucky asks Brigitte what it means, and Brigitte explains that it's the sac on a male containing sperm to make a baby. Brigitte makes sure that Lucky isn't asking the question because someone tried to sexually abuse her. Brigitte is satisfied with Lucky's answer.
The New York Times Bestseller, 2007 and 2009; Newbery Medal Winner, 2007; ALA Notable Children's Books, 2007; and others.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Lucky claims that a gland creates the meanness in her.
Where does meanness come from?
What are the reasons she treats people — especially Miles — badly?
- Why does Lucky believe that running away will help her take control of her life?
How has running away from a problem helped or hurt you?
When does your life feel the most out of control?
How have you learned to release your control and hand your worries for the future to God?
- What does Lucky tell her grandmother when Miles goes missing in the dust storm?
What might have happened if Lucky hadn't found him later?
What part does her lie play in this?
Is it ever OK to tell lies?
What does the Bible say about lying?
Why does God want people to tell the truth?
- How is Lucky able to keep going forward during bad times?
What does it mean to take your life one day at a time because of the pain you feel on the inside (the tip Lucky learned when she spied on at 12-step meeting)?
Have you ever had to live like that?
Why does Lucky feel she has to live like that?
- What does Lucky say about the moon toward the story's end?
What caused the earth to have the right moon?
What do people in the story mean when they refer to a Higher Power?
Do you think they are talking about the same Higher Power?
Why does the story use the words higher power instead of God?
Who is the Higher Power in your life?
- What was Lucky's final act in the story that stopped her from listening to other people's lives?
What does this act mean to her?
How did it change her life?
- What does Lucky overhear about Miles at a Smokers Anonymous meeting?
How does learning that Miles' grandmother has custody of him because Miles' mother is in jail for selling dope affect their relationship?
What happens because of Lucky's eavesdropping?
What has happened in your family or with your friends because someone listened to a private conversation?
Why shouldn't children or adults eavesdrop on other people's conversations?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.