This slice-of-life sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron is published by Ginee Seo Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Books and is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
The entire town of Hard Pan, Calif., (population 43) is preparing for Lucky's 11th birthday party. Once she is an 11-year-old, Lucky wants to do wonderful and "intrepid" things that 10-year-olds can't. She's thrilled when a visiting scientist's niece about her age (Paloma) becomes her new best friend, but she struggles to manage her long-standing friendship with the serious-minded Lincoln. Sometimes, Lucky's newfound passions — such as her quest to heroically unearth a 100-year-old brooch from an abandoned well — result in cruel and selfish behavior toward others, and even putting them and herself in danger. With the help of her adoptive mother, Brigitte, and her quirky Hard Pan "family," Lucky celebrates her birthday and learns to embrace and respect friendships, new and old.
As Lucky looks up into the night, she wonders if God had a mischievous second cousin who poked a bunch of holes in the sky to make the stars.
Lucky's absent, twice-divorced father occasionally sends a little money. His first wife, Brigitte, came from France to care for (and later, adopt) Lucky when his second wife (Lucky's biological mother) died. Though completely out of her element, as a new parent and an aspiring American citizen, Brigitte takes an online restaurant course and opens a café in Hard Pan. She tries to provide a balance of freedom and rules for Lucky and help Lucky understand why her father isn't around, which isn't Lucky's fault. Short Sammy, a former alcoholic who lives in an old water tower, is a good listener, meal provider and friend to Brigitte, Lucky and other kids and adults in Hard Pan.
Other Belief Systems
Lucky's hero is Charles Darwin. She wants to be a scientist like him and has even named her dog after a ship on which he sailed. She mentions him a number of times, has conversations with him in her head and even makes a list of all the ways she and Darwin are alike. Lucky wonders what the evolutionary reasons are for her friend Paloma's interesting eyelashes, and she says Paloma was destined to come to Hard Pan. She believes the Hard Pan bus driver's willingness to fill in as a waitress at Brigitte's café is a good omen. When she is trapped in the well, Lucky believes her luck has run out.
Scrotum appears twice in reference to Short Sammy's dog, who years earlier was bitten on his genitals by a rattle snake. Short Sammy says h--- once. Lucky's friend Paloma calls one of Lucky's bad ideas arsy varsy. Miles, Lincoln and Lucky discuss a woman who was shot in the heart a 100 years ago. The conversation makes Lucky recall a time when she tripped and blood gushed from her own chin, and Lincoln helped her stop the bleeding. She later talks about how Egyptians mummified their dead by sticking long-handled spoons in through the nostrils and scooping the brains out a little at a time. Lucky believes she's suddenly intrigued by murder and blood (as well as love and kissing, and other things that are precious and fragile) because she's turning 11. A stray burro wanders into Lucky's yard at night and pees large quantities of urine. She wishes she could measure the amount of urine and knew how long it took for the burro to pee, in the interest of science.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- How does Lucky feel when Short Sammy's secret box arrives in Hard Pan? What does she think is in the box? What else could arrive in a crate big enough to hold a bathtub (instead of a coffin)? What scares Lucky about the box? Why doesn't she share her fears with Brigitte? Do you ever keep your fears to yourself because you worry that voicing them will make something bad happen? Explain. Are there other reasons why you keep your fears to yourself?
- What is the first thing Sammy does with his new bathtub? Do most bathtubs hold soup? What was Lucky's reaction to a bathtub of soup? What is one time you were surprised? What was unique about that situation?
- What is Lucky's secret birthday wish? How has her father's absence and lack of communication hurt her? Does Lucky's wish come true? Why is Lucky so hurt by a father she doesn't even know?
- What does Lucky do to Lincoln's secret knot project? Why does she want to destroy it? How would his leaving town for a year to stay with a knot expert in England affect Lucky? How does cutting Lincoln's project destroy more than rope? Lucky reacted without having all the facts. She also thought only of herself. How have you reacted inappropriately because you misunderstood what someone was doing? How does Lucky feel when she learns why Lincoln was spending so much time on his secret project?
- What kinds of things does Lucky lie about? Why does she tell so many lies? How do the lies hurt Lucky and others? Why doesn't God want people to lie?
- What word describes what Lucky most wants to be when she's 11? Why is it so important for her to be intrepid? Why does she like the word? What does it mean? What word would you use to describe who you are and what you'd like to be?
- When Lucky is stuck in the well, what imaginary conversation does she have with Brigitte? Lucky tells Brigitte she (Lucky) has run out of luck, and Brigitte says that the future doesn't happen by chance. Who is right? Which of their statements best describes your view of life, and why?
- When Lucky is trapped in the well, why does she partly want Lincoln's rescue plan to fail? Have you ever wanted to be right more than you wanted to be safe or happy? Why?
- How does all of Lucky's mean behavior finally make her feel about herself? Do you ever wish you could get away from yourself because you don't like the person you're becoming? How can hurting others be worse than getting hurt yourself? Has that ever happened to you? How did you handle the situation?
- Was Lucky a good friend to Lincoln? To Paloma? What does it take to be a good friend? How can Lucky have been a better friend? Are there any areas in which you can be a better friend? How do you make new friends and still maintain old friendships?
Lucky tells a lot of lies. Some are "smaller," like when she tells restaurant customers that tomato worms are a delicacy. Some are to her friends — to hurt them or to keep them away from people she doesn't want them to meet. She seems to have an easy time spewing out an untruth when the "need" arises.
Mentions of alcohol: Brigitte poaches fresh pears in red wine, and a minor character sometimes loans his tools to people for a six-pack of Bud Light.
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