Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Half a Chance

Half a Chance

Cynthia Lord
Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Scholastic Press, 2016   ISBN: 978-0545035347

Twelve year old Lucy has moved three times in her life so far. Her father is a famous photographer and he finds it hard to settle in a place for long. Though he travels a lot for work when he is on assignments, he still gets restless after a while, and then Lucy and her mother have to move and start over in a new place.

This time they have moved to a small town in New Hampshire. Lucy’s dad is going to Arizona for two months on assignment the day after they arrive, which is hard on Lucy and she cannot help feeling that he needs his work life more than he needs his family.

One thing Lucy likes about her new home is that it is next to a beautiful lake, and she also likes the neighbors. The day they arrive Nate and his big sister Emily make her feel welcome and invite her over to hang out.

The next day Nate’s grandma Lilah invites Lucy to go out in one of their kayaks on a Loon Patrol. Soon Lucy finds herself in a kayak – which is a new experience for her – and she, Nate, and Emily are paddling their way across the lake to check on the loons to see how the birds are doing. They are hoping that the loons will raise two chicks this year. Lilah has been part of a loon conservation effort for years, and has watched generations of loons raise their chicks on the lake.

Before Lucy’s father leaves he tells her about a photography contest for kids that he will be judging, and Lucy is shocked that he did not tell her about the contest before. Perhaps he does not think that she is good enough to be in the contest, or perhaps he does not even want her to participate. Though there is a chance that she won’t be allowed to enter because she is the judge’s daughter, Lucy starts taking photos that she feels suit the prompts in the contest flyer. Nate gets involved as well, coming up with good ideas for possible shots.

Without meaning to, Lucy starts to invest in her photos emotionally, and she dares to hope that maybe she could win the contest. The prize for the best collection of photos is five hundred dollars, which she could use to help out Lilah. Lilah is too frail now to go out in the kayak to check on the loons and she really misses being out on the water. She misses doing her part to protect the birds that she loves so much. Maybe Lucy could use the contest money to help Lilah see her beloved loons.

Lucy captures all kinds of beautiful moments as she snaps away. And she also starts to see more than she perhaps wants to see. She notices that something is amiss with Lilah, and after talking to her mother about her observations Lucy learns that it is possible that Lilah is suffering from dementia. Worst still, the kind and delightful old lady knows that something is badly wrong, and her family members are worried about her.

In this evocative and emotional novel we meet a girl who is struggling to come to terms with her father’s passion for his work, and his seeming inability to live with his family in their home on a full-time basis. At the same time she sees another family struggle with a crises that is heartbreaking and painful, and there is so little that she can do to help. We cannot help but feel connected to both Lucy and Nate, and cannot help hoping that they will be able to weather the trials that lie ahead of them.

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