Beyond Lucky

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Beyond Lucky book coverWhat the Book is About:

Ari Fish yearns to be just like his older brother, Sam: confident, strong, and, most importantly, one of the best soccer goalkeepers Somerset Valley has ever seen. But with Sam in California risking his life to fight brush fires, Ari feels like luck is the only thing he can depend on. After a spate of good fortune followed by misfortune, Ari begins to understand that when luck runs dry, it's true friendship that counts the most.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Bar Mitzvah (a ceremony for Jewish boys who have reached age thirteen): When Ari is not on the soccer field, he feels the pressure of his impending bar mitzvah. Ari is expected to learn how to read his parsha (Torah portion) in Hebrew and to write a speech. As he prepares for his bar mitzvah, Ari enjoys some meaningful conversations with the rabbi of his synagogue. He also collects donated snacks and supplies, working toward his bar mitzvah goal of delivering eighteen packages to firefighters in the field.
  • Tefillah (prayer) and Kehilla (community): When the Fish family does not hear from Sam and fears the worst, they find comfort in prayer and in support from their community.
  • Asei Lecha Rav (Hebrew for 'make for yourself a rabbi'): This refers to the Jewish dictum that encourages people to find lifelong role models. Ari searches for positive role models through his obsession with presidents, his emulation of his older brother, and his worship of local soccer star, Wayne Timcoe. Although Ari ultimately discovers that people are imperfect, finding role models helps him grow.

Positive Role Models

  • Ari: Ari's emotional development throughout the book makes him a true role model for kids ages 9-12. When Ari realizes that he has treated his friend Parker badly and that Mac has been dishonest, Ari makes difficult choices that take courage and build his own confidence.
  • Parker: The only girl to ever be on the Somerset Valley soccer team, Parker shows persistence and courage. Despite being shunned by Ari's best friend, Mac and Mac's cronies, Parker shows maturity by supporting Ari and by helping him see that Mac is not a loyal friend.

Content Advisory:

In a gruesome incident, a character named Miscelotti gets injured playing soccer; his injury is described as follows: “his leg bone was sticking out.”

Topics to Discuss

Ari and Mac had been friends for years before Ari realized that when it counted the most, Mac did not have Ari’s back and was only in it for himself. Have you ever had this kind of realization about someone who you thought was a close friend? If so, how did you handle it?

More for You

Tefillah (prayer): There isn’t one Jewish approach to prayer, nor is there a unified Jewish view on the purpose of prayer. There are biblical examples of effective prayer such as when Hannah prays for a son and conceives (I Samuel 2:2-10). And there are biblical examples of ineffective prayer such as when Abraham fails to convince God to spare the people of Sodom from destruction (Genesis 18:23-33). While it’s impossible to truly define prayer and its purpose, one thing that Jewish tradition has always emphasized is the comfort that comes from communal prayer. The service for the most solemn and important day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, is almost entirely written in the plural: “we ask for forgiveness...we are Your people”. In Beyond Lucky, when Ari’s parents are frightened about the fate of their older son, Sam, it is the prayer that the rabbi leads with their friends that gives them the most hope. Perhaps it’s the rare opportunity to not only sympathize, but also to truly empathize with the suffering and situation of another that gives communal prayer its power.