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Newbery or Not: Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

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Pub Stub: Scholastic, $16.99 hardcover, ISBN-10 0545035333, February 2014

Book Blurb: A moving new middle-grade novel from the Newbery Honor author of RULES. 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.

Author Tidbits: Lord, Cynthia. 2007 Newbery Honor recipient for Rules (Scholastic 2006).

Newbery or Not: What a charmer! Lord’s duo of creative, family-focused leads are as wholesome as fresh bread, but Lucy’s insecurities and naive ethical missteps keep any potential sap in check. Bonus points for her portrayal of a parent who travels extensively for career reasons but honestly tries to remain connected to his wife and child while he’s away, and bonus-bonus points for letting Lucy admit that his long absences don’t always sit well with her. The kids’ appreciation for the beauty of the local wilderness comes off as authentic, as does Nate’s love for and protectiveness toward his grandmother. Lucy’s explanations of her photography–mainly shot composition–flesh out the scenes instead of turning the novel into a DSLR manual. Probably not a contender for gold, but perhaps another silver?

Recommend to: Tween fans of contemporary stories

To buy or not to buy: A solid choice for any tween collection.

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