Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book Review: Patti's Luck

Title: Patti’s Luck (Sleepover Friends #1)

Author: Susan Saunders

Date: 1987

Publisher: Apple / Scholastic

ISBN: 0-590-40641-8

Length: 101 pages

Quote: “‘Fifth-graders,’ Kate said slowly, rolling the words around on her tongue. ‘Doesn’t that sound a lot more mature than fourth-graders?’”

That’s the level of “maturity” sustained throughout this whole series. Although a goodly number of middle school readers bought and read the Sleepover Friends books, they never were loved in the way other juvenile series, like the Baby-Sitters Club or Clifford the Big Red Dog, have been loved. They’re entertaining enough to keep kids quiet during long rides; they’re not great.

In this episode, during one of their sleepovers, Kate imitates a character in a movie rerun the girls are watching and puts a “bad-luck spell” on Patti. The Sleepover Friends laugh about the hex until Patti really does have a run of bad luck.Some of it spreads over other people as well. A water main breaks, so the girls can’t wash the purple gel out of their hair before bedtime. Lauren hastily sets down her schoolbooks to help Patti untangle her bicycle chain, not noticing that she’s set them down on the back of a stranger’s car; when the girls look up, the car is rolling away, the driver not having noticed the books either. During the class trip to the museum, the fifth-graders get trapped in a stuck elevator. “The bad luck is all in Patti’s mind,” Kate insists, but it persists until the girls convince Patti that she’s due for a run of good luck.

Possibly because this book didn’t qualify for any literary awards, it didn’t arouse the kind of censorious indignation that other novels about middle school characters dabbling in The Occult provoked. It gives more attention to witch lore, relative to ordinary middle school social and family concerns, than either Jennifer Hecate Macbeth William McKinley and Me Elizabeth (why did Amazon mess up the look of that link? I don't know) or The Headless Cupid. Pagans and Unitarian Universalists are likely to enjoy Patti’s Luck. Fundamentalist Christians definitely won’t.

Meh. I didn’t buy this one for myself, or for my niece. I bought it at a bag sale, with a lot of other children’s books I intended to dress dolls to match, and after reading the story I’ve decided not to bother about the doll. Who wants to be accused of encouraging middle school witchcraft? Still, in the end Patti’s Luck actually tends to discourage witchcraft and “evil speaking,” so I suppose it has enough redeeming moral value to be offered to kids who want it.

Should it be a Fair Trade Book? I don't know. The Susan Saunders who wrote this book may still be alive, but I'm finding no positive information to that effect on the Internet. Anyway, to buy it here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address at the bottom of the screen, below the blog feed widget.