Saturday, February 8, 2014
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
218 p. Scholastic Press, February 25, 2014. 9780545035330. (Review from arc received at Scholastic Preview ALAMW)
Lucy and her parents are moving household, again. This time from an apartment in Boston to a cottage on a lake in New Hampshire. Her dad is leaving on another photography assignment, again. This time, he'll be shooting endangered insects in Arizona. At the end of the summer, she'll be starting a new school, again.
When she sees that there are children her age in the neighboring cabins, she's thrilled at the possibility of starting a new school WITH friends. Unfortunately, Nate and Megan are just here for the summer and Megan doesn't seem to keen on sharing her summer friend with Lucy.
She and Nate hit it off though, and soon she's accompanying him and his sister, Emily on Loon Patrol. Nate's grandmother, Lilah, has been recording data for a local conservation group for many years, but is no longer able to get into a kayak to get close enough to observe the loons. Lucy has never paddled a kayak, but soon finds her rhythm and enjoys the outings. She also finds many opportunities to take intriguing photographs. Each time she frames a shot, her mind is on what her dad might say or think.
When Lucy learns of a national photography contest, she's interested in participating. But when she finds out that her father is the judge, she wonders about the ethics of it. Would he dismiss her work? Would he judge it more harshly? Nate helps her with her project by making suggestions and helping to set some photos up. She wonders if he could consent to having his name on the application instead of hers. Would that be ethical?
Lucy confronts another ethical dilemma when Nate objects to her using a photo of Lilah looking lost and frightened in the portfolio. She understands his feelings, but it's an artful shot, one that really grabs the viewer's attention. It's honest. She debates with herself about who owns the shot, her because she took it or Lilah because she's the subject. She reasons that Nate doesn't have a say, but doesn't want to jeopardize their budding friendship.
This quiet coming-of-age story doesn't have dramatic, edgy issues. It's gentle and totally relatable with deep themes - interpersonal relationships, identity, conservation, friendship and loss. Lucy is likable, introspective and arty as well as a tad competitive. Her hero-worship of her dad is becoming a bit tarnished, which is good because he's a bit of a self-centered twit. The boy-girl friendship is realistically drawn; the dialogue is authentic; and the imagery and descriptive language is lovely. The cover is gorgeous.
Give this to your thoughtful readers, your artistic readers, your readers wanting something a bit sad. They won't be disappointed.