Serving Young Teens and ‘Tweens shares the idea that “tomorrow’s young adolescents will benefit from our choosing developmentally appropriate resources and encouraging information literacy through the use of information resources in a variety of formats”. Shiela Anderson lists that Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia, and other online sources and social networking sites successfully reach out to youth providing information as needed/desired. There is growing concern for information accuracy, but facing the fact that “young people naturally ask questions about their environment” can neither be denied nor ignored and “educators, librarians, and publishers need to recognize that the reading interests and behaviors of our adolescents have changed forever in this digital world”. That is why both John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in their book Born Digital: Understanding the First Generational of Digital Natives points out the need for such urgency for “assessment of information online as well as offline” unlike “twenty years ago, when kids had library cards instead of Web access [and] the material at the library was already hand-picked for its suitability and accuracy”. Granted, what was considered “suitable” twenty years ago has drastically changed, and often challenged books that discussed such needed topics were banned from school libraries and access information was greatly filtered by adults. Books such as Bridge to Terabithia, Maniac Mcgee, and The Higher Power of Lucky all have been challenged at some point, are all Newberry winners, and all three books wonderfully discuss topics that are of great need to our adolescents.

Patron, Susan. (2006). The higher power of Lucky. New York, NY: Anthem Books for Young Readers
2007 Newberry Medal
2007 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Genre: Fiction
Reading Level: 5.8
Interest Level: 2-6
Hard Pan Trilogy:
1 – The Higher Power of Lucky
2 – Lucky Breaks
3 – Lucky for Good

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron interestingly enough has been a challenged book for one word; “scrotum”. The protagonist is a 10 year old girl, and many find that word to be inappropriate for a tween (early-adolescent) regardless of it being basic human anatomy as it was used in proper context. Still, this heartwarming story, a 2007 Newberry Award recipient, gently engages its audience about topics that most 9-14 year olds are aware and curious about. Topics such as death, loss, abandonment, foster care, poverty, addiction, spiritual beliefs, runaways, insecurity, friendship, love, and even community. This story of hardship is less foreign than many may believe for children as much as it is for adults. Though categorized as juvenile fiction, the lessons taught and learned through Susan Patron’s inspiring novel can assist many through “real” tough times as well as provide much insight into the mind of a tween.

Lucky Trimble’s own name may seem ironic to her and even the reader may agree due to her many misfortunes. Lucky’s life is one of insecurities born from loss, abandonment, fear, poverty, and lack of communication. Through all of this, she displays considerable determination to ensure her own security by her survival kit (backpack for running away to test Brigitte, her legal guardian’s loyalty), her dreams of notoriety as a famous scientist, and eavesdropping on various 12-Step meetings in her quest for a “higher power” as she has heard many share in their testimonials of how their higher power saved their lives and gave them stability. This stability is what she desires most of all. She doesn’t want anything to interfere with her leaving her hometown, and her daily concern of her being given up to a foster care system and having to leave her dog HMS Beagle, Miles (5 year old cookie loving kid always wanting Lucky to tell him stories and read his favorite book Are You My Mother?), and Lincoln (maybe future president and a member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers). Thankfully, Lucky does come to discover that Brigitte does not intend to leave her and is currently in the process of adopting her. And, also discovers her “higher power” is in fact the town of Hard Pan (same abbreviation as higher power) due to the love all of the other 42 inhabitants have for her as she realizes from their community effort to locate her when she runs away from home during a dust storm.

Mary Ann Harlan, a professor at San Jose State University School of Library and Information Sciences shares her thoughts on tough issues and advocacy for tweens in her Materials for Tweens class. She explains how many perceive tweens as a child yet they are neither a child nor a young adult. Tweens in this modern age or also referred to as the “era of oversharing” are highly inquisitive and aware of many topics whether personal or second hand knowledge via a friend or media, and need access to what many may consider “controversial” materials. Topics of rape, divorce, sex, death, addiction, hunger, homelessness, and physical and emotional abuse are some topics in which educators and librarians must take interest to protect “ALL” children by providing them their information rights by ensuring their rights to read. Harlan explains that the one literary role of realistic fiction serves to tweens is by increasing one’s empathy, providing insider point of view on specific topics, and expanding one’s curiosities to pursue answers to many questions that arise during the tween years. These tween years can also be labeled as transitional years due to bodily, hormonal, and even emotional changes. All reasons as to why it is essential to “provide them with resources that helps them make sense of their world” as The Higher Power of Lucky may provide for some.

The article Coming Out in Middle School from The New York Times discusses one of many developmental topics that are age appropriate to tweens. The article states that the kids of today know the meaning of words sooner than we did (adults), and are able to make connections at earlier ages. This is exampled by one parent sharing that their daughter was able to recognizing her interest in boys and girls and “put two and two together and call herself bisexual”. This article shares that for one student, they were glad to have a “safe place at school to talk about what was happening” at home. And another comment, provided by the parent of a gay teenager said that “middle school is more survival than learning”. Such insight leads to the question; do we as a society want our children to just have the label “survivor” due to living through bad experiences or rather a “survivor” through access to information literature that can assist in preventing “bad” experiences?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s