Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (2006, 3 hrs.)

In light of the controversy surrounding this Newbery pick of 2007, I'd like to add this subtitle: "The Curious Incident of the Dog with the Scrotum Bite." A story about a girl named Lucky living in the desert of California, and how she deals with growing up, losing her mother, knowing her father does not want her, and worrying that her guardian is going to leave her and move to Paris, gets overshadowed by the reference on page one of a dog's scrotum bitten by a rattlesnake. I have to admit, the first page caught me off guard, but more so because of the story surrounding the tragic (though insignificant) snake bite. I completely agree with Kristen McLean of Pixie Stix Kids Pix:

"I can’t help but notice with amusement that no one has objected to another passage in the first chapter of the book that involves a man “who 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…” Apparently rum, drunkenness, and poor taste in automobiles have nothing on scrotums when it comes to getting people in a moral outrage. (I can’t criticize the Johnny Cash. I love Johnny Cash.)"

I did wonder exactly what audience she was trying to reach. As a self-proclaimed quirkophile, I thought I would enjoy the quirkiness of the characters, but I found myself switching from the audio book to the radio a lot and waiting anxiously for the story to end. In a possible defense of the book, when I listen to books in the car, it is very fragmented. I have four kids who go to three different schools, and I do daycare a few times a week for kids who go to yet another school. So the story gets broken up into about six or seven five-minute segments throughout the day. I can't help but wonder if I would have appreciated it more if I had sat down and read it all at once. As far as children, I have no idea if it would hold their attention at all. My 11-year-old son, who only heard bits and pieces, just described it as "weird," but I think that was after hearing about how Lucky puts mineral oil on her eyebrows to make them "glisten."
Overall, I just wasn't that impressed, and although I'm not quite in agreement with the author: “The word is just so delicious. The sound of the word to Lucky is so evocative. It’s one of those words that’s so interesting because of the sound of the word,” the scrotum and the controversy were the only exciting aspects of this children's novel.

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