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.
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:
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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