Friday, December 5, 2014

Half a Chance

Half a Chance
Cynthia Lord
Scholastic, 2014  218 pgs.
Grades 4-7
Realistic Fiction

Lucy has to move (again!) with her nature photographer father and mother to a cottage on a quiet lake in New Hampshire.  She is reluctant to move and is sad that her father must immediate leave for an assignment across the country.  Lucy befriends the boy next door, Nate, and becomes involved with his family, specifically Grandma Lilah.  Grandma Lilah is slowly slipping into dementia and this will probably be her last summer on the lake.  She sends various family members on "loon patrol" in kayaks to protect and report on the endangered bird's progress.  Lucy gets involved with loon patrol and with Nate's help decides to enter a photography contest for young people that her father is judging.  The two friends find photo opportunities together and, although Lucy actually takes the pictures, plan to enter under Nate's name.  The one shadow on the summer is Megan, Nate's friend from previous summers.  She is threatened by Lucy and the two experience a very strained relationship, battling for Nate's attention.  Joy and heartache accompany the adventures of the loons, as Grandma Lilah continues to become more forgetful and scared.  The contest is entered, the winner is announced, and the fallout occurs once Dad realizes Lucy's involvement.  Relationships are strained and healed as the summer ends, Nate's family leaves, and Lucy starts her new school year. finally adjusting to her new home.

Lord, author of the now-classic Rules, offers another growing up/friendship story.  Half a Chance feels like spending a summer on the lake: nothing happens, yet everything happens.  The book is quiet and no major events take place, yet the plot moves along at a steady clip and it is never boring.  Lucy matures and learns valuable lessons.  As the reader I also learned lessons about photography and loons.  I'm not a nature lover, but my heart stood still during the scene when Lucy is in a kayak in the middle of the lake trying to fend off an eagle who is trying to eat a baby loon.  I became engrossed in this story and honestly cared about the characters, including the loons.  The adults in the story are flawed, but earnest, supportive. and present.  Lucy and Nate are good and loving young people, who make mistakes and then fix them, even when its not the easy or comfortable thing to do.  I appreciate that, although the kids in the story are entering seventh grade, the battle subtly fought over Nate was about friendship, not romance.  Nate and Lucy's relationship was genuine and shows that boys and girls can be friends.  Half a Chance reads pretty quickly and, although the main character is a girl, can be enjoyed by boys as well.  Putting a boy on the cover further broadens the audience.  This is a great choice for kids who like a real story about real kids.  there is no magic, no space travel, no one dies and nothing extraordinary happens.  Yet real conflicts that kids can relate to are faced and the book is emotionally gripping.Fans of Rules are a natural audience, but anyone, really, would enjoy this book.  A solid offering from a solid author.

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