The Higher Power of Lucky…


Today my family completed yet another Newbery Medal Award Winner in Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky


I have updated my rankings accordingly.  The following list does not include the works that did not happen to be award winners (but that we still enjoyed as a family) such as the seven books included in The Chronicles of NarniaHatchet (an honor recipient), and The Hobbit.

Here is the list to date (along with my respective reviews):

  1. The One and Only Ivan (2013)
  2. Bridge to Terabithia (1978) 
  3. Dead End in Norvelt (2012)
  4. Shiloh (1992)
  5. Flora & Ulysses (2014)
  6. When You Reach Me (2010)
  7. Holes (1990)
  8. A Wrinkle in Time (1963)
  9. The Higher Power of Lucky (2007)
  10. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (2008)
  11. The Graveyard Book (2009)
  12. Moon Over Manifest (2011)
 
My favorite quote from this book was when the main character observed, ““Because sometimes Lucky wanted to change everything, all the bad things that had happened, and sometimes she wanted everything to stay the same forever.”
 
To be honest, this piece of fiction was not one of my favorites.  But maybe the criticisms and comparisons are becoming a bit unfair as the list becomes more extensive.  The main reason that this shorter book did not stand out to me was because this story seemed to follow the basic formula of Newbery recipients.  A child at the center.  A family struggle.  And quite an imagination.  I felt like I had “been there and done that”.  
 
I also am slightly uncomfortable with some of the content (i.e. “scrotum” and “Smoker’s Anonymous”, and “Higher Power”).  I skimmed over sections of this book, had to explain some themes, and felt like little was lost in the process. 
 
As far as our next selection, we now will begin Criss Cross (which I have heard is a bit different than some of the above selections – that this particular work is more of a collection of poems and prose.  Should be interesting to see if this book will actually hold the attention of our audience. 
 
Has anyone read this book?  Thoughts? 
The Higher Power of Lucky…

The Nerd’s Guide to Being Confident…

 
 
I have mentioned in previous blogs of how much I enjoy Audible.  One of the added bonuses to such a monthly subscription is the rare occasion where they send you bonus downloads (typically around major holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas).  Imagine my surprise when they gave me the option to download one selection from a variety of “relationship” books in honor of Valentine’s Day.  Largely due to being unfamiliar with the great majority of such options, I decided to download Mark Manson’s The Nerd’s Guide to Being ConfidentI was intrigued by this author because of his successful blogging resume as well as his reputation of being fairly funny.  
He is indeed a talented writer.  And obviously incredibly well-read and thought-filled when it pertains to a great amount of his experiences and ideas.  But overall, I could not have been more disappointed with this book.  The only saving grace might have been that the download credit came at no cost.  Manson’s style can be quite crude and crass.  His thinking very humanistic and self-centered.  He is unnecessarily disrespectful and degrading especially towards the Christian Faith (an approach I often am able to stomach had it not been for his much softer approach to Eastern religions).  
Here is my take on the author.  Manson is much like a doctor who makes the correct diagnosis (I applaud his take on our younger generations struggling with victim-mindsets, etc.) and yet fails in his prescription (focusing far too much on comfort, pleasure, and tolerance).  Much of his conclusions rest on the premise that truth after truth has been “proven” false over history’s time.  Therefore, much of what we believe now will be confirmed to be more of the same.  And yet, the author continues to encourage the reader to trust himself or herself as the ultimate authority of his or her own life.  
With little or no respect shown towards the traditions or convictions of the past, Manson focuses far too much on happiness rather than health.  Satisfaction over service.  Liberty rather than responsibility.
That being said, from time to time, the author did scratch the surface of some things significant.  But he just did not quite have the ability (or desire) to dig just a little bit deeper.  For example, he speaks of “meta-awesomeness”.  That strange capacity that some individuals have that allow them to actually celebrate their weaknesses.  For example, the woman who is late for every meeting only to laugh off such inconsiderate behavior.  Or the boyfriend who is verbally abusive only to always find a way to apologize for what he just can’t seem to control.  We show sympathy towards such people – as long as they are self-aware (they know what they do) and vulnerable (they are not afraid to admit it).  
But Manson stops there (though I know much of this chapter is written tongue-in-cheek).  What about repentance and accountability?  These people cannot help themselves.  So who can?  Will they actually not only admit their need for change but also show a willingness to do just that?  And will we cease enabling them and instead doing whatever it takes to see them pursue health and wholeness?  

 

There is a difference between Truth and truth.  This short work is just one more example that large chasm.  Some books are just not worth reading.  Free or not.  
The Nerd’s Guide to Being Confident…

The Road Trip that Changed the World…

As part of an annual book exchange with a good friend, I received (and recently completed) Mark Sayers’ The Road Trip that Changed the World.  

One of my favorite quotes from this book was when the author described the historical context behind Abraham being asked to sacrifice his one and only son.  Sayers suggests “Ancient hearers of this story would anticipate that the story would end with Abraham sacrificing Isaac as an offering to his god.  The shock in the story for ancient readers would not be that God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his child, but that God would not allow Abraham to sacrifice his child.  God does test Abraham, but God is also tested.  The story raises a question, ‘Is God like Molech?’  The answer is clear: He is not.  This God is nothing like the gods of Abraham’s world.  He does not devour that which is most precious.  He does not ask that we sacrifice our futures for the sake of the present.  God cannot be controlled by the popular imaginations of the day.  This story, so strange, so foreign, fits like a round peg in a square hole in our contemporary understanding – reminding us that the God who will save us transcends our human agendas and contemporary sensibilities” (204).

This should be a warning to all of us.  Should we be the most concerned when so much of the gospel no longer troubles us (let alone transforms us)?  When his Message no longer directly challenges (and destroys) the idols of our day.  Both outside and inside the church.  When Jesus begins to “fit” far too much with our own political ideologies, economic systems, or cultural perceptions.  Maybe then we are grotesquely guilty of making him in our image rather than submitting to his renewing work of ours?

In this sense, any journey with Christ should be and could be radical.  He will ask us to sacrifice what is most dear to us… while at the same time providing the Answer just in the nick of time.

The Road Trip that Changed the World…

Flora & Ulysses…

My family continues our journey through past Newbery Medal Award Winners.  We just completed Kate Dicamillo’s Flora & Ulysses (this year’s recipient). 


I have updated our rankings accordingly.  Again, the following list does not include the works that did not happen to be award winners (but that we still enjoyed as a family) – such as the seven books included in The Chronicles of NarniaHatchet (an honor recipient), and The Hobbit.

Here is the list to date (along with my respective reviews):

  1. The One and Only Ivan (2013)
  2. Bridge to Terabithia (1978) 
  3. Dead End in Norvelt (2012)
  4. Shiloh (1992)
  5. Flora & Ulysses (2014)
  6. When You Reach Me (2010)
  7. Holes (1990)
  8. A Wrinkle in Time (1963)
  9. Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (2008)
  10. The Graveyard Book (2009)
  11. Moon Over Manifest (2011)
 
My favorite quote from this book was a dialogue between Flora and her father’s neighbor.  Dr. Meescham observes, “Cynics are people who are afraid to believe.”  
 
She also questions, “Who knows whom [Ulysses] will save?   So many miracles have not yet happened.”  
 
And finally, “Even when [miracles] didn’t happen, we were expecting it.  We knew the miraculous would come.”  
 
This was a fun read.  The second Newbery Award for this author (and believe she has an additional Honor Selection as well).  We have not yet read Despereaux (but will in just a few months at the rate that we are going).
 
As far as our next selection, we now will begin The Higher Power of Lucky.
 
Has anyone read this book?  Thoughts? 
Flora & Ulysses…