The Higher Power of Lucky

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The Higher Power of Lucky
First edition cover
AuthorSusan Patron
IllustratorMatt Phelan
Cover artistMatt Phelan
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Publication date
7 November 2006
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages134 pp
LC ClassPZ7.P27565 Hig 2006

The Higher Power of Lucky is a children's novel written by Susan Patron and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Released in 2006 by Simon & Schuster, it was awarded the 2007 Newbery Medal.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel features Lucky, a 10-year-old girl who lives in a small town called Hard Pan (population 43) in the California desert with her two friends Lincoln, who is an avid knot tyer and expected by his mother to be the president when he grows up, and Miles, a five-year-old whose favorite book is "Are You My Mother?" by P.D. Eastman. After her mother died two years ago from being electrocuted, her father called upon his first ex-wife, Brigitte, to come to the United States from France to take care of Lucky. Lucky fears that Brigitte is tired of being her guardian and of their life in Hard Pan. When she discovers Brigette's suitcase and passport lying out, she becomes convinced that Brigitte will abandon her and return to France. This anxiety prompts Lucky to seek help from her "Higher Power", a notion she gets from eavesdropping at her town's 12-step meetings. After discovering three "signs" to leave, she runs away with her dog, HMS Beagle, during a sandstorm. Outside of town, however, she finds Miles, lost and injured in the storm, and takes him with her. They take shelter in the dugouts near an abandoned mine and wait out the storm. They are soon joined by Lincoln, who tells them that the rest of the town is looking for them, and will be there shortly. Before she leaves the dugouts, she casts her mother's ashes out in the wind in a makeshift memorial service with the townsfolk. Brigitte takes Lucky home and explains the papers Lucky had found in Brigitte's suitcase were actually to legally adopt Lucky, and reveals her plans to open a restaurant in Hard Pan.


Controversy has arisen over the book due to the use of the word "scrotum" on its first page. A number of school libraries have decided to ban or otherwise censor the book according to a New York Times article.[2] While some accuse the author of attempting "Howard Stern-type shock treatment", author Susan Patron described the passage in question as being based on her personal knowledge of a rattlesnake biting a dog's scrotum, as well as an explanation of anatomy for readers 9 to 12 years old. She appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation to defend her choice of words.[3]

The American Library Association responded to the Times article with a statement regarding the value of the book.[4] The authors of the three Newbery Honor books, Cynthia Lord, Jennifer Holm, and Kirby Larson also supported the "scrotum" usage.[5] The story gained further exposure when the blogosphere chimed in.[6][7] Kristen McLean, executive director of the Association of Booksellers for Children, provided the industry's response.[8]

Simon & Schuster have posted a video on their website where Patron discusses the book and her influences in an interview by fellow Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata. In this video Rick Richter, President and Publisher of the Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, states "Simon & Schuster ultimately hopes that readers will recognize this wonderful book as a whole, and the charm and innocence of its main character Lucky, and will see beyond one word and the controversy surrounding the book. Susan Patron has written a masterful novel celebrating small town values and we can only hope that her deserved Newbery winner is recognized for the treasure that it truly is."[9]

Sequels to The Higher Power of Lucky[edit]

The sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky was published on March 10, 2009 by Simon & Schuster. Lucky Breaks includes Lucky's eleventh birthday, and the introduction of another friend in her world. The third and final book in Lucky's Hard Pan Trilogy is Lucky For Good. It was released in August 2011.


  1. ^ "American Library Association announces literary award winners". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  2. ^ "Bosman, Julie. "With One Word, Children's Book Sets Off Uproar." New York Times. Published Feb. 18, 2007". The New York Times. 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  3. ^ "Are some words off-limits in children's books?". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  4. ^ "ALA statement". Archived from the original on 2007-02-26. Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  6. ^ "Neil Gaiman's Journal". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  7. ^ "You say scrotum, I say Hoo-Haa". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  8. ^ "Thoughts on the Great Scrotum Kerfuffle of 2007". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
  9. ^ "The Higher Power of Lucky (Hardcover)". Retrieved 2007-03-24.
Preceded by
Criss Cross
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village