Susan Patron
Susan Patron
My Books - Reviews
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REVIEWS
Behind the Masks
Lucky for Good
Lucky Breaks
The Higher Power of Lucky
The Higher Power of Lucky - Audio

Behind the Masks by Susan Patron
Behind the Masks: The Diary of Angeline Reddy, Bodie, California, 1880
Written by Susan Patron
Published by Scholastic, 2012
   

BOOKLIST
Patron returns to the locale of her Newbery-winning The Higher Power of Lucky (2006) in this Dear America series title set in Bodie, California, in 1880. Fourteen-year-old diarist and would-be dramatist Angeline Reddy does not believe her father, criminal lawyer Patrick Reddy, has been murdered. Convinced his disappearance is purposeful, Angie investigates his “demise” and tries to bring him back to their rough-and-tumble mining community. Assisted by friends, a dashing young Wells Fargo clerk, and the members of a local theater troupe, the witty and insouciant Angie offers a revealing look at frontier life—especially preoccupations with thespian entertainments, racial and social prejudices, and vigilante
justice. This complex novel, featuring multidimensional characters, is related in formal Victorian prose; Patron’s style affects the tone of a comedic mystery/melodrama, well suited to the story’s theme that people often hide their true selves (both good and bad) behind disguises. Appended with historical notes, period photos, and directions for making masks, this should appeal to fans of Sid Fleischman’s Mr. Mysterious and Company (1962).
— Kay Weismam - Issue: December 15, 2011

 

KIRKUS REVIEW
A not-so-shy Angeline is a force for justice in a Wild West town that is out of control. In 1880s Bodie, Calif., there is no safety. Criminals run amok, along with a corrupt sheriff and a vigilante gang, all striking terror into bad guys and decent citizens alike. When Angie Reddy’s father, a renowned criminal lawyer, is said to have been murdered, neither Angie nor her mother believes it. Angie sets out to find answers and discovers that she is pluckier, stronger and more determined than she believed herself to be. She is aided in her quest by the mysterious Ling Loi, new friend Ellie, young, handsome Antoine and the Horrible performance group. Together they bravely encounter cruelty, kindness, adventure and a host of fascinating and frightening characters. The female characters, missing from so much of the Western genre, are strong, passionate and enduring, with fully developed back stories. As Momma says, “[W]omen out west need to be ready to do most anything.” Employing the diary format common to the Dear Americaseries, would-be writer Angie paints a vivid picture of her life in that time and place. Primitive medicine and dentistry, gossip, prejudices, education, local politics, even clothing, parties and romance are all woven into Angie’s account, adding richness and texture to the plot. A rip-roaring tale with a satisfying conclusion. (Historical fiction. 9-14) Issue: December 1, 2011.

 

Lucky for Good by Susan Patron
Lucky for Good
Written by Susan Patron
Illustrations by Erin McGuire
Published by Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2011
 
   
BOOKLIST *STARRED REVIEW
The final book of the Hard Pan trilogy brims with the same hardscrabble charm as its predecessors, which include the Newbery Medal–winning The Higher Power of Lucky (2006). This time around, Lucky is 11, and Patron surrounds her with a familiar cast of characters, each of whom brings his or her own challenges. Lucky’s mother, Brigitte, runs a café that faces a citation from the health inspector; her friend, Miles, is wrestling with his mother’s Evangelical ideas about his education; her friend, Lincoln, remains his wholly idiosyncratic self; and her father remains incommunicative. Patron distributes the conflicts across episodic chapters, investing them with universality and an impressive authenticity that is particularly impressive given each individual’s peculiar curiosity. The precise dialogue—filled with irresistible quirks, such as the regular use of “which” as a conjunction—contributes to the indelibly human
characterizations. McGuire’s spot illustrations have a bit more weight than Phelan’s sketchy impressions, which appeared in the previous titles, while still maintaining the same sense of breeziness and warmth. Fans of the earlier titles will find great satisfaction in Lucky’s burgeoning maturity, while newcomers will want to head straight for the stacks to continue the story.— Thom Barthelmess (June 1, 2011)

 

THE HORN BOOK
Just as things are going smoothly for eleven-year-old Lucky and her now-officially adoptive mom Brigitte (The Higher Power of Lucky, rev. 1/07; Lucky Breaks, rev. 3/09), trouble arrives in the form of county inspector Stu Burping, tasked to shut down Brigitte’s Hard Pan Café. The community, not one to suffer bureaucrats gladly, rallies in a most spectacular way to save the place. Meanwhile, as punishment for punching out Mr. Burping’s xenophobic nephew, Ollie, Lucky must draw up a family tree—no mean feat for the girl whose absentee father shunted her off on his first ex-wife after Lucky’s mother died. With Brigitte’s help, Lucky tracks down her father’s half-sister, leading to gratifying, if bittersweet, closure. Lucky’s other important relationships are shifting, too; most notably a more-than-friends moment with knot-tying Lincoln and a marriage proposal from young Miles, whose just-out-of-jail, born-again mother challenges Lucky’s most steadfast beliefs. McGuire’s black-and-white spot illustrations (like Matt Phelan’s in the first two books) beautifully capture moments between the characters: the clinging embrace of Miles and his mom, Lucky’s antagonistic glares at Ollie and affectionate glances at Lincoln. The book closes at summer’s end, on the eve of the café’s reopening and with Lucky poised to start junior high. She’s no longer the insecure little girl toting around her “survival kit backpack…worried about losing her way”; instead, she’s well positioned to face life’s uncertainties, secure in her family and her own “higher power.” --- Elissa Gershowitz

   

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY
Patron satisfyingly concludes the trilogy that began with the 2006 Newbery-winning The Higher Power of Lucky. Lucky Trimble, now 11, has carved a comfortable life for herself in tiny Hard Pan, Calif., helping her adoptive mother, Brigitte, run her cafe and spending time with her favorite quirky neighbors and friends, who will be familiar to readers of the previous books. But in the summer before junior high, Lucky is rattled by a threat to Brigitte's business, news about her long-absent father, and her sweet, confusing feelings about her best pal Lincoln. She also worries about her friend Miles, who is forging a relationship with his mother, born-again and recently returned from prison. Lucky navigates these stresses and others with realistically kidlike aplomb, consulting her Higher Power when things seem particularly tough. Patron's memorable setting and cast, as well as some crisp, thought-provoking dialogue, will keep readers hooked as she resolves the plot lines she's set in motion. But the biggest treat is ever-hopeful Lucky, who ends her adventures on a high note. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)

   

KIRKUS REVIEW
Lucky and the other 42 residents of Hard Pan return in this second sequel to the Newbery Award–winning The Higher Power of Lucky. Change is the only constant in Lucky’s life. No sooner has she become used to life with her adoptive mother, Brigitte, and working in Brigitte’s home-based Hard Pan Café than the Inyo County Health Department sends apologetic inspector Stu Burping to shut it down. According to regulation #1849, commercial cooking can’t be done in a residence. In true Hard Pan fashion, all the eccentric residents cooperate to devise a unique solution. At school, Stu’s nephew Ollie causes problems for Lucky. At home, Miles, Lucky’s 6-year-old genius friend, is surprised when his mother, Justine, returns from prison, and Lucky’s scared the now deeply religious Justine will leave, taking Miles. Can Lucky trust her Higher Power to see her through all this, plus a change in her relationship with best friend Lincoln and the discovery of why her biological father wants nothing to do with her? Bringing a nice sense of closure to the Hard Pan Trilogy, Patron’s third Lucky tale is a bit episodic. However, it's as sweet and sure and thoughtful as previous outings. Lucky’s fans will be overjoyed to see her safely on the way to junior high, though some might miss Matt Phelan's art. (Fiction. 9-12)

   
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Gr 4-6–As the third book in Patron’s series opens, the tiny desert town of Hard Pan (population 43) is bustling. Lucky’s adoptive mother, Brigitte, who has opened a small café, gets an unwelcome visit from the county health inspector, who threatens to shut things down. Miles’s mother, Justine, is sprung from jail and is full of newfound religious platitudes. This causes her supremely scientific son no small amount of grief. Lucky gets into a fight with a middle schooler (who just happens to be the health inspector’s nephew), works on tracking down her father’s only living relative, and gets her first kiss. There are also tidbits of poetry, art, genealogy, and health ordinances. Yes, Patron packs a lot into this book, but nothing feels rushed or shortchanged. That is a tribute to the strength of her writing and the depth of her characterizations. As in the previous books, the plot rambles slightly (this is a good thing) and the kids are super thoughtful and articulate. Miles’s mother’s religion, while not unexpected, feels like it comes down heavily in the final third of the book, but it allows Lucky to contemplate her Higher Power, and although she questions Justine’s choices, she is never judgmental. This is a terrific read and a lovely completion to the trilogy.–Geri Diorio, The Ridgefield Library, CT
   

LINDA SUE PARK - BLOG
Middle-grade, library. The last of the trilogy about Lucky growing up in the tiny California desert town of Hard Pan, and to my mind the best. As much as I loved THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, which won the Newbery Medal in 2007, I loved this one even more. Favorite moment (MINOR SPOILER ALERT): the miniature staircase made out of tiny bones extracted from owl pellets, an absolutely delightful image that encompasses Lucky, Miles, children needing their moms, Lucky's love of science, development of Justine's character, imagination, creativity, the desert . . . and how going round and round isn't necessarily staying in one place. One of those rare and perfect moments in literature.

 

 

Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
Lucky Breaks
Written by Susan Patron
Illustrations by Matt Phelan
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2009
To order a signed copy CLICK HERE
   

THE HORN BOOK
… As in the first book, Lucky's show-off tendencies lead to trouble; here she falls down a well while trying to impress Paloma. Lincoln, armed with his latest top-secret knot project and natural quick-thinking ability, rescues her, but Lucky's response isn't gratitude, it's indignation and self-pity. With sensitivity and precision, Patron delves into the complexities surrounding friendship… Return readers will be contented to once again pass some time in Hard Pan, while those like Paloma who are new to the community will feel embraced by its close-knit (or should that be close-knot?) warmth…

   

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY
Riding the same wave of warmth and quirkiness that distinguished Patron's Newbery-winning The Higher Power of Lucky, this sequel continues the musings of Lucky… as she looks for adventure and a best girl friend… Lucky's occasional bratty behavior can be maddening, but her recognition of her mistakes and her efforts to rectify them are endearing. Although Patron breaks no new ground, she skillfully balances sentimentality and humor, allowing her characters to shine once more in their own idiosyncratic ways…

   

KIRKUS REVIEW
Lucky Trimble, age ten (soon to be 11), returns with the 42 other Hard Panners in this sequel to the 2007 Newbery Award winner, The Higher Power of Lucky… Readers new to Hard Pan would be better off starting with Higher Power; the stories therein make this a richer experience. Patron's second Lucky novel, much like the first, is about the strength of the families we create rather than those we're born into…

   
BOOKLIST
…Unlike many sequels, not one note feels contrived, and the story’s curious plot, while sometimes meandering, is organic… Without being heavy-handed, Patron nails the insecurities and overzealousness of a budding friendship, and the central adventure of Lucky getting trapped inside a well brings these feelings to a fine point. Those who famously tried to ban Higher Power will be scandalized to find that the word “scrotum” appears in Lucky Breaks not once, but twice.
   
Review on   KIRBY LARSON'S BLOG

 

 

 

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
The Higher Power of Lucky
Written by Susan Patron
Illustrations by Matt Phelan
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2006
To order a signed copy CLICK HERE
   

THE HORN BOOK
… Author Patron's tale of a grieving, insecure little girl is never heavy-handed or maudlin, due in part to quiet bursts of humor. Quirky supporting characters include future presidential hopeful and knot artist Lincoln Clinton Carter Kennedy, Lucky's best friend; and recovering alcoholic/hippie/cowboy Short Sammy. The book's brief chapters reflect the cyclical, episodic nature of life in Hard Pan, while meandering yet meticulously crafted sentences illustrate Lucky's natural curiosity and the importance of storytelling in her life. Patron's sensory descriptions of Hard Pan and the surrounding desert, supported by Phelan's gentle spot art, animate this unique community.

   

PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY
…The author's third-person narrative gently adheres to a child's perspective and reveals the warm relationship between Lucky and Brigitte…. Though Lucky's ponderings sometimes grow repetitive, the sympathetic, pleasingly quirky characters define this tightly-knit hardscrabble community, affectionately portrayed in Phelan's half-tone illustrations.

   

KIRKUS REVIEW
…Hard Pan may be lightly populated, but every soul is uniquely unforgettable, from 5-year-old Miles, shameless cookie hustler, to Lincoln, serious knot-tying addict. Readers will gladly give themselves over to Patron, a master of light but sure characterization and closely observed detail. A small gem.

   

BOOKLIST
…Patron's plotting is as tight as her characters are endearing. Lucky is a true heroine, especially because she's not perfect: she does some cowardly things, but she takes pains to put them to rights.

 
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
… This character-driven novel has an unusually complicated backstory, and a fair amount of exposition. Yet, its quirky cast and local color help to balance this fact, and the desert setting is fascinating. Lucky's tendency to jump to conclusions is frustrating, but her struggle to come to terms with her mother's death and with her new life ring true. Phelan's cover and line drawings are simple and evocative, a perfect complement to the text.
 
 
The Higher Power of Lucky - Audio

The Higher Power of Lucky - Audio
Written by Susan Patron
Read by Cassandra Campbell
Published by Listening Library
Unabridged Edition, 2007

School Library Journal
…Narrator Cassandra Campbell brings Susan Patron's Newbery Award-winning novel (Atheneum, 2006) to life, giving each character a slightly different, expressive voice. Brigitte's soft French accent and Lucky's earnest longing and unique view of life are especially captivating. The novel addresses difficult topics such as death, absent parents, and addiction with realism, humor, and wonder, making the overall message one of hope and love.

 
www.susanpatron.com ©2009    Illustrations ©2006 by Matt Phelan     Contact:  susan@susanpatron.com