Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
Have you ever heard the eerie call of a loon early in the morning? The sound alone can bring about a number of emotions - excitement about the creature that makes such a sound, appreciation that nature is so beautiful and mysterious, sadness and loneliness as it is often so quiet when a loon calls, and finally happiness that you were fortunate enough to hear something so rare. This thoughtful book brings about a similar stir of emotions, as Lucy finds herself trying to deal with the move to a new lake house in New Hampshire. Lucy's father, a professional photographer, has a strong sense of wanderlust that sends him immediately out for a photo shoot in Arizona. This leaves Lucy to once again miss her dad, wish she could gain more of his praise for her own photography and learn about her new surroundings on her own. Lucy might get her chance to do all of these things by entering a photo contest for kids that her dad just happens to be judging. Given a long list of words like, Sticky, Wonder, Out of Place, and Lost, Lucy must take photos that illuminate those ideas. After quickly making friends with the next door neighbor boy, Nate, and his large extended family, including an aging grandma battling dementia, Lucy gets to work with Nate's help. This is their story of finding adventure, protecting the endangered nesting loons on the lake, becoming friends, and coping with nature's unfairness of aging and death.
This book has some beautiful moments as Lucy attempts to understand her new home, and her place not only in it, but in life. There are moments of exuberance and brilliance. And yes, this story has moments of sadness, but it is an honest and lovely story of real life problems that sooner or later, everyone must face. The description of nature's serene splendor, the fun of venturing out into the woods or onto a lake, and the desire to help an ailing friend are all things that hit home with me and made this book special. It is a quick read for an upper elementary or middle grade student, perhaps best described as a quiet read for a thoughtful student.