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Friday, April 18, 2014

half a chance, written by Cynthia Lord. Scholastic, 2014. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"Up close, he was bigger than I expected, magnificent and strange: a velvety black head, a sharp tapered bill, a band of white stripes around his neck, and a windowpane pattern on his wings - like he was dressed up for a fancy concert, wearing a striped necktie and checkered vest. The loon swam quickly away from me, his head turning side to side. I yanked my camera out of my life vest and starting shooting...."

Lucy has moved TOO many times...her father is a photographer, always on the hunt for new subjects and places to explore his artistic talents. This move takes them to New Hampshire and an old, needy cabin on a small lake. It is more a summer place for most of its residents, and Nate is the first person that Lucy meets when they arrive. Nate is there for the summer, with his family and his grandmother who loves the lake setting and the loons who make their summer homes nearby.

As soon as they arrive, her father leaves for work. Lucy and her mother are left to settle in, and make the most of this new home. Lucy is an aspiring photographer. She finds focus for her photography in a contest that her father is set to judge. She decides to see if she can meet the requirements of the list given, and Nate is a willing assistant. He offers new perspective, and thoughtful ideas.

While getting to know Nate, his grandmother, their family and another summer visitor named Megan, life moves beyond photography for Lucy.  She helps with loon patrol, comes to understand dementia and the toll it takes, and discovers that winning a contest just might not be the most important event in a summer full of new learning.

This a beautifully written middle grade novel. Family is at the center of the telling, and she manages to bring attention to the various ways they work. Lucy and her mother miss her father while he is away from them, accompany him on each move, and learn to deal with the changes that occur as he works at his craft. Nate's family is concerned for Grandma Lilah's deteriorating health, and her anger and acceptance for the changes she is experiencing. Then, there is the loon family and its tenuous existence due to both natural and human elements.

Honest, quiet and uplifting, this novel proves once again that Cynthia Lord has an incredible ability to tell stories that matter, give us characters who will remain forever memorable, and give our heartstrings a much needed tug that honors family.

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