Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard
Reviewed by Melanie Cote
This Young Adult novel opens with the line, “Mama died hard, you should know that.” We hear the gritty voice of Melia, the oldest daughter who, at fourteen, is now tasked with keeping her younger brother and sister together. They have no other family, and they do not want to be separated in foster care. The children have a deep loyalty to one another. They each use their unique gifts to better their family as a whole.
Melia has many monumental tasks before her in this Depression era novel. To keep herself and her siblings out of foster care, she schemes up a plan involving a hobo pretending to be her father who has miraculously returned. Melia is also charged with keeping the family business, a gas station, out of the evil clutches of the local gas franchise owner. In addition to this, she works to put food on the table and keep her siblings in school.
The reader is rooting for Melia to succeed despite the odds she faces. This story delves into the realities of poverty, gender and power. The imbalance and ugliness of power over another comes to a climax in an intense scene near the book’s end.
Lucky Strikes show us the guts and grit that can be necessary to make it through life’s challenges. This 2018 DCF book is also available at our library.
Elementary schools all over Vermont look forward to the annual The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award — the award where the kids choose which book gets the award. Below the cut are summaries for all 30 books nominated this year. These books targeted for students in grades 4-8, though anyone can enjoy them. Most are available through our library’s digital collection, while some are also available here at our library!
Students are generally asked to read at least five of the year’s nominated titles before voting. Voting takes place in the spring, generally beginning in April.
This year’s nominees include:
The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan
Reviewed by Melanie Cote
Have you ever wondered what your dog was thinking? If so, this is the book for you. It’s the story of two children lost and freezing in a winter storm. They are led to safety by a dog named Teddy. He brings them to his person’s cabin – the Poet’s Cabin – but the poet is not there. The children are able to “talk” with Teddy. Teddy and the children take care of one another while the storm rages on outside. We learn of their past struggles, the whereabouts of the poet, and hope for a brighter future for them all.
This story is told with a gentle tone which Patricia MacLachlan is known for. The kindness of the children and Teddy towards one another tugs at the heart strings. Children will be pulled along by the loving relationship that develops between the children and Teddy. There is a touch of magic and mystery woven throughout the story. The importance of the power of our words and of truly hearing others is a central message.
This book is also on the 2018 DCF reading list!