Monday, June 22, 2015
MMGM: Half a Chance
This was a book I picked up a few months ago, but at the time, I couldn’t quite get into it. I think I was reading it in the wrong season, for this is a summer book through and through. Not only is it set entirely in the summer on a lake in New Hampshire (!), but also, despite its heavy theme of dealing with a grandparent with dementia, it never loses its light, buoyant quality.
Here is the synopsis (from Amazon):
When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera's lens, as her father has taught her -- he's a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he's judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special -- or only good enough. As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn't want to see: his grandmother's memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.
What I loved:
1. A protagonist with an interesting hobby. I don’t know a lot about photography, but I learned a lot just from reading this book. There are some interesting corollaries with writing, like finding the story in the subject you're capturing.
2. Kayaking! I am a bit of a water freak, and kayaking is my favorite mode of travel while on calm seas. I have done more canoeing than kayaking in recent years, but Lord’s descriptions of dip and pull brought back my kayaking adventures.
3. Selflessness. The kids’ goal wasn’t about fame or treasure (or saving the world). The purpose of winning the contest was to help someone else—and that was lovely to see.
4. Nate’s relationship with his grandmother. I really enjoyed reading about a boy who cared so much about his grandmother. Her dementia was handled realistically and poignantly.
5. Lucy’s relationship with her dad. Lord did an excellent job of showing Lucy’s mixed feelings about her father—her ache that he’s gone so much and their attempts to remain close despite the distance.
6. An emotional book that’s not too heavy. As much as I love a good character-driven novel, some MGs are too heavy-handed for me. I wonder often how many kids are drawn to those types of books, because most kids I know (including my own) avoid anything remotely sad. This book could have been very sad, if Lord hadn't have given Nate and Lucy so many good and interesting things to focus on this book. I loved how the book left me a sense of the joy and beauty of life.
I think this would appeal to fans of Cynthia Lord’s other work, especially fans of Touch Blue, which it reminded me of. I think it would also appeal to those who enjoy Linda Urban’s work (Crooked Kind of Perfect, The Center of Everything) or fans of THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer Holm.If you enjoy a character-driven read with a strong sense of place, check out Half a Chance.
Have you read any good books set in summer?
If you're looking for Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog.