Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LUCKY BREAKS by Susan Patron

lucky breaks
by Susan Patron
illustrated by Matt Phelan
Simon and Schuster, 2009
review copy was purchased with my own money

I can't wait to hand this book to my student who read The Higher Power of Lucky at the end of the year last year. She'll love it! Lucky is the kind of character, and Hard Pan (population 43) is the kind of place that stay with you.

Maybe every girl on the brink of turning eleven needs to read this book. Not since Sandra Cisneros' story eleven have I seen this age described so eloquently. (I'm not going to link to any of the online copies of Cisneros' story--they are all violating copyright, so I'll let you find them for yourself if you don't already know the story. It's from Cisneros' book Woman Hollering Creek.) Here are the lead paragraphs of lucky breaks:
"Eleven. Lucky thought from her seat at the back of the school bus, eleven, eleven, eleven, and the idea of it the sound of it threw off sparks in her head. You start with one, two, three: those clunky one-syllable beginner-ages like wooden blocks that toddlers play with. Keep going and you get to eight, nine, ten: the plodding steps you have to climb until, at last, you arrive. Finally, finally, you reach the best age, the one that, when you say it out loud, sounds like a little tap dance or a drumroll.

...She pictured 11 as a swinging double door, a saloon door in an old Western; you push the sides open, bam, with both hands and stride through before they flap shut again, your childhood behind you." (p.1-2)

This is a book that will satisfy readers who read for plot. In the first chapter, we learn (from Miles, who is about to turn six) the story of two miners from about a hundred years ago who loved the same woman who was tragically killed in their fight for her. A piece of her brooch is supposedly at the bottom of an abandoned (or condemned?) well. The story captures Lucky's imagination, and any reader worth their salt is going to know that sooner or later, Lucky will be down that well looking for the missing piece of the brooch and it's a good thing that the book is titled lucky breaks. It would be interesting to use this book in a literature circle or grand discussion and have readers focus on all of the things that break (literally and figuratively) in the book.

This is also a book that will satisfy readers who read for characters. Lucky's friend Lincoln is fully developed in this book. He is still complicated and quirky and constantly tying knots, but he is also mature and stable, which are both lucky breaks for Lucky. A new character is also introduced -- Paloma, who becomes Lucky's first best friend who is a girl.

And finally, this is a book that will satisfy readers who read for setting. Hard Pan, the desert around it, and the sky above it are beautifully described. Matt Phelan's small sketches help readers visualize the vastness and the emptiness of the desert landscape. In this interview, Susan Patron shares that the setting of a fictional former mining town in California's Eastern Sierras was the initial inspiration for Lucky's stories.

The third book in the series is promised for 2010. YAY!

1 comment:

  1. You've really captured my interest with this post!


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