Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord Book Review

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: February 25, 2014

When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake in New Hampshire, she isn't really sure what to expect. Her father, a famous photographer will be away on a photo shoot for most of the summer. Lucy quickly makes friends with the boy next door and an enemy is the girl across the lake, but it is the discovery of a photo contest that her father is judging that becomes the framework for her summer. As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy helps her new friend Nate with Loon Watch, but her camera reveals a sadness that Nate does not want to see: his grandmother's memory slipping away.

As with Rules, Cynthia Lord has created another believable and sometimes heart wrenching story. Of course, the real sadness of the story rested solely on Grandma Lilah who has dementia.This is a subject that I feel is rarely discussed in children's literature or with children in general. As a child I remember being very afraid of old people. My children's church group used to visit a nursing home fairly regularly and I don't remember anyone ever explaining to me why these old people couldn't remember their names or acted strangely.

This was a fun summer story with a wonderful sense of place, one made all the more poignant with the loons and photography sub-plots. I love that Lucy eventually learns the importance of not always seeing life through the lens of her camera.  For me, the real win though is in the fact that I teared up a couple of times. There were some parts that moved a little slow and Lucy was a rather introspective child, but for the most part, the pacing was fine. I think that teachers are really going to love this book as it has many elements (photography, bird watching, new friendships) that teachers can teach and use in the classroom. I think kids will love it for all the same reasons, especially if they are one of the lucky ones who gets a school visit from Ms. Lord.