Thursday, July 5, 2007

Book Club Cyber-Meeting


OK Bookclubbers, it is time to discuss The Higher Power of Lucky. My hope for this forum is that it can be more dynamic-like a chat room, and less static-like everyone makes one comment and is done. Please continue to check back and respond to other readers' comments, so it can be an ongoing conversation.

A while ago I made some suggestions about what to take note of--plot, character development, good literary bits, etc. Tell us what you think about all that. Also, tell us what you thought generally of the book. Do you think it deserved the Newberry Medal this year (declaring it the best book in American children's lit for 2007)? What do you think about the controversy?? (Let me tell you, there was quite a conversation about it in the class I attended last month, so I'm super curious about what all of you think.) I'll let y'all begin the commenting and I'll add my two cents here and there.

Let the fun begin!

22 comments:

Amy said...

So, I haven't read this book yet, but I am looking for a book club to join. I got your blog address from Emily Anne's and thought I would drop a line and ask to join! I would love to hop on the wagon for your next book. I ADORE children's lit (it was my FAVORITE class in college) and books are my not-so-secret passion.

Mrs. Cropper said...

Amy, welcome aboard! We're thrilled to have you! We'll start a new book as soon as we've finished discussing this one, so stay tuned...

liz said...

I see from the lack of comments that I might not be the only who has procrastinated reading this book -- I bought it, but haven't read it! I promise to get on it and make some comments when I do!

kate said...

Ok, well I have read the first half and what do I have to say about it so far...I'm not sure I think it deserved the Newberry Medal. The first chapter was for sure a little dicey...talking about scrotum's and the guy who is always drunk and so "messed up." I don't think I would let my young child read it based on the first few chapters. I am on chapter 10. So far I don't know how impressed I am with the story line. it seems so disjointed and kind of random. Once again maybe I just need to finish it and it will all come together...but to me a lot of it doesn't make sense. Like why would Lucky's dad hand over his daughter to some random ex-girlfriend, and why would that girlfriend move from France to be her sole guardian. The whole thing just doesn't really make a lot of sense.

Maybe I'm not very good at this book club discussion thing, but does anyone else feel like this book is off the mark for a children's book?

I'll keep reading and let you know what I think.

Anne, sorry it's taken me so long to post a comment, but I do love this book club thing. I love that it's making me read things that I probably wouldn't read otherwise, and I think I'll like this discussion thing!

jeanine said...

Okay... I finished this book a while ago so let's see if I remember anything from it. Although I thought this was an alright book I expected a little more from a Newberry winner. There were a few gems in here. Lucky's guardian (I can't remember her name at the moment) was the hero of the book I thought. Kind of a melencholy little book. And although I didn't think the word "scrotum" was completely out of line I don't think I'd want my little girl (if I ever have one) reading that either. I don't know. I'm excited what everyone else has to say.

liz said...

I just read this book in one sitting (instead of doing laundry) -- it took about 2 hours. Here's what I think. Lucky is like Ramona Quimby for this generation. She is smart, she is creative, she gets into a little trouble. She does not have a traditional family, and you know what? A lot of kids don't these days.

I found this writing very good and interesting -- something to think about in every paragraph. Lots of clever moments -- didn't you love Slow: Children at Play?

It might be a little sophisticated for my fourth grader, but I'd like him to read it anyway. We keep our kids safe in the cocoon of our nuclear family, but they need to learn that what they have is not what everyone has, or even what most kids have. Books like this are a safe way for them to learn about the realities of life.

I was just watching a show about kids who never make it out of foster care and get to age 18 without a friend in the world. This innate need to belong to someone is the biggest theme of this book, and I think it's such an important one for us to be aware of.

As for the word scrotum, I hope no one is offended by this, but I think worrying about something like that in this day and age is just laughable. Maybe it's because I have boys, but I just think we should teach kids what things are.

The Innkeeper said...

I read the book at least a month ago. I also read it one sitting. So, Amy if you want to join in on this discussion, just run down to the bookstore!

I would let my kids read it when they were the right age. Joshua (my 4 year old) already knows what a scrotum is, or at least where it is on his body. I read the NY Times article about the censorship of the book and how librarians wouldn't want to give that vocab lesson to a 4th grader. What's the big deal? Why are people offended by body parts?

Anyways, back to the book. I liked the ending. I was glad that she wore the red dress. It helped me to realize her beauty.

Liz, I also loved "Slow: Children at Play". Sorry the book isn't super fresh in my mind. I just borrowed it from the library and I have already returned it, so I can't flip through to find things I loved. But I'm glad I read it. Thanks, Mrs. Cropper.

Mark said...

Ok you got me! I really liked this book! I guess I shouldn't judge a book by the first few chapters... so when I went back to the book chapter ten warmed my sentimental heart because it was all about her mother and the urn. Then the story line really picked up and took on a life of it's own in my little head. Then the end, well what can I say, I have a very tender spot in my heart for adoption! I was teary eyed! I liked the way that Brigitte's charater was kind of mysterious throughout the book and then in the end she reveals that she's been working toward adopting her. Nothing could make me happier then a child finding a loving home and parent. There are so many children that need this in today's world.

Liz, you made a really good point about letting your children read this book to introduce them to different situations that happen in the world, and the different struggles people have from you own. I never thought of it like that. I liked your point that it's a safe way for them to learn. Not being a mom yet, I don't think of things that way.

I think that after finishing it I would let my children read this. It might raise a different conversation in our home because we will have adopted children, and I don't know...maybe my kids would have questions after reading it. Maybe I'm hyper-sensitive to the ending because of my current situation? But over all I think it's a good book and I'm happy I read it!

can't wait for the next selection!

kate said...

Opps, Mark is really Kate!

lori said...

HA! Just finished...3.5 seconds ago! Loved the comments so far and am anxious to add my own - but it's gotta wait for tomorrow. My bed calls!! :)

Taylor said...

THIS IS ANNE, NOT TAYLOR!
Sorry I have just now joined in the discussion-my computer's been on the fritz! Isn't it nuts how out of it you feel when you can't connect?!

So I have lots to say, of course. First of all, I agree that scrotum isn't a bad word, and is merely a body part. And I would let me child read this book probably by 3rd or 4th grade. I think it would facilitate discussion (which discussion, as far as I'm concerned, should already be mid-way by that age.)

BUT, I have a question for you all: What if I, Mrs. Cropper, was your 3rd-grader's teacher, and read the book out loud to your child?? Let me know what you think...

Mrs. Cropper said...

Next--I agree with several of you that this book wasn't quite the quality of such Newberry winners as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry or The Bronze Bow. It was interesting learning in my class about the selection committee. The committe members change every year, which is good. Here's what you need to know though: Most of these awards I talk about on my blog are put out by the ALA (American Library Association) which does AMAZING things for children's lit in this country. You need to know, though, that the ALA is notoriously liberal. And I tend to think that it draws some liberal members, which end up on these selection committees. While I think The Higher Power of Lucky is a great book, with great writing, I think it was partly chosen for its edginess. NOTE: this is all my opinion! So that's just something to think about...

Mrs. Cropper said...

Here are a few bits that I found clever:
-Just the idea of having a "Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitors' Center." Where did Patron come up with that?!

-words like "tragical" and phrases like "in a wedge of shade."

-This bit about parsley (p.74) cracked me up:
"Usually if she noticed (parsley), it was because of being in a fancy place like Smithy's Family Restaurant in Sierra City, where a hamburger came on a plate with a frizz of parsley for decoration. You noticed Smith's fanciness right away because of how the waitress, Lulu, neatly rolled up everyone's fork-knife-spoon set in its paper napkin, like a little present. This made you feel especially welcomed. Another excellent quality of Smithy's was that, if you asked her, Lulu would bring two extra lemon wedges for your fish sticks at no extra charge, on a tiny plate especially made fot that type of delicacy. Some people's tiny plates had olives speared by toothpicks with cellophane ruffles. Or the sprig of parsley with your burger, which Smithy's Family Restaurant probably realized wasn't necessary, the way ketchup was, but which gave a certain elegance. Lucky noticed that most people in Smithy's didn't actually eat their parsley--it was there just for the fanciness of making a pretty green decoration and also because it looked healthy and made health-conscious people not worry so much about the bad cholesterol teeming around in their juicy hamburger."
I love that because A) it's hilarious, B) because can't you just picture yourself at age 10 thinking that a place like Smithy's (I'm thinking of Denny's) was fancy? and C) because for Lucky, whose life was rough and filled with mysterious cheese-products--Smithy's Family Restaurant would feel like the Ritz.

Mrs. Cropper said...

I still have a lot to say...

Here's a question I have though.
It's clearly stated that Lucky hits "rock bottom" when the parsley thing breaks and she discovers Brigitte's suitcase packed. But here's my big question that I've got some thoughts about, but no difinitive answer: How/when exactly does Lucky find her higher power?? What do y'all think?

kate said...

I'm with you...I giggled during lots of part of this book!

Jill said...

Ok, it's been awhile since I have looked at Mrs. Cropper's Books. I AM IN ON THE NEXT BOOK! Keep me posted!

Jill said...

I want to become a member! I will watch for the next book!

kate said...

Anne, I was just wondering the same thing last night. We're always on the same wave-length.

Is it when she finds the strength to scatter her mothers ashes?? Or when she finds the power to run away and live off her survival pack? I don't know? Maybe it's for the reader to decide...

Mrs. Cropper said...

Kate, I was also thinking it might be when she lets go of her mother's remains... or maybe in caring for Miles??
Maybe you're right that it's for the reader to decide.

lori said...

OK. Time for thoughts. (about time!)

Wasn't really compelled by the plot until somewhere around chapter 10 (half way throught the book). Only kept reading, really, because of the clever and/or vividly descriptive pieces of writing that litter the book and bring the characters to life in an otherwise sandy, slow going plot (which, in the end, does suit the book's themes and characters) (I liked how the writing reflected Lucky's own semi-brash, "scientific" slant (glands, scrotums, brain crevices, secretion, capillaries...)

And speaking of the scrotum controversy. The word didn't bother me. Feel like I could discuss it with my child without great amounts of stress. HOWEVER, I didn't think it was NECESSARY. Especially the way it was woven in as a connector. One or two mentions at the beginning, as part of Short Sammy's story: great. Again at the end? Not my favorite. I thought the repetition was, indeed, a little edgy.

-and in response to your question, Anne, I wouldn't mind if "Mrs. Cropper" read the book to my 3rd grader - but it might be nice of her to send me an e-mail or a memo of some kind, assuming I might not have read the book, and alerting me to the possible discussion questions that might come up at home as a result of the book's vocabulary....? As well as the possilbly difficult issues of death and loss.
And I do realize that that's probably totally unrealistic :)

Anyway...continuing. I would like to read this with my daughter someday for the very reasons that have already been mentioned: for the insight into both a lifestyle and a longing for love that are so different than many of us have known or experienced.

I also think the theme of seeking a "higher power" would be great for discussion with a child.

And regarding the questions about Lucky's discovery of her HP...I was going to ask opinions about that too. I was assuming it was pretty clearly implied on page 130...(when Lucky scatters the ashes) "Suddenly a breeze came, a little afterthought of the storm, as if, Lucky thought, some Higher Power was paying attention and knew what was needed."
I like the personification of the Highter Power "paying attention"...gives a comforting inpression of an enduring maternal influence - or the overtone of an omnipotant being. I like that.

OK. I'll call that enough rambling for now. Loved the fun! Hope to join in less after-the-fact next time!! Thanks Anne!

Mrs. Cropper said...

Oooh, Lori, some great points. Here's the deal. I probably wouldn't read this book to a class full of students. Mainly because there is SO MUCH great stuff that I would want to read aloud, that it just wouldn't make the list. If I did read it aloud I would totally leave out the scrotum bits. Because I believe, as you mentioned, that though they are not particulary offensive, they are TOTALLY UNECESSARY. An email or newsletter to parents, like you suggested, is a totally great idea, and quite doable. And a good point that it's not just the scrotum word that's a sensitive issue--it's the whole death and loss bit too. Overall, although I think it a great book to read with your child, I think I would probably avoid reading it aloud because it's already hard dealing with certain parents-without deliberately reading something controversial to their kids!

I also liked your point connecting the higher power with an omnipotent being. Cool. Lots of thought-provoking stuff. I really liked when Lucky talked about doing a "searching and moral inventory of herself."

One of the big things I think this book does, as most of the bookclubbers pointed out, is that it exposes the reader to a lifestyle that is HARD. There was a woman in my class at the library who made a comment and I wanted to sock her. She said, "I don't want my kids to read it because it presents this terrible life as being normal, and it is not normal." Oooh, I still seethe with anger when I think about it. While Lucky's life is not IDEAL, it is normal and, unfortunately, common. In fact, as my sister Liz pointed out, at LEAST Lucky has someone who loves her and cares about her. That's more than so many children have! After I socked this lady, I would have liked to remind her that there are kids living in Provo (Gasp!) that live like that (and worse). Go tell them they aren't normal. For heaven's sake! So yes, while I intend to raise my children in a much more loving and AA meeting-free environment, I want them to understand that everyone's circumstances are different, but that we are all God's children. I don't want my children sheltered from that reality, or by being so sheltered, to judge others who do not enjoy the blessings they do.

Well, that's enough of that rant!

danielle said...

well I know this is kind of late, but I finally read this book so I wanted to be included in the fun. Ok here is what I have to say...

I liked this book. Mostly because it feels like the way a ten year old would think about things...you know, it just feels like you are really seeing all these complicated life things through the more simple eyes of a ten year-old. Also I think the whole controversy is a little silly. I think maybe the author was going for a little bit of contoversy...you know what I mean? I mean obviously she chose the body part the dog would get bitten on, I know that was shocking to people, but I actually liked how she brought it back in the end, because it once again showed Lucky's innocence and curiousity, when she asked what a scrotum was. I think there was a point to it. Anyway, I have lots more to say but maybe I will save it for the next book seeing as everyone had moved on.