Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
This is a lovely story about friendship and family. Twelve-year old Lucy, her dog, and her parents have just moved to a run-down cottage on a lake in New Hampshire. Lucy’s father is a famous photographer and somewhat restless, so the family has moved before and Lucy is aware of how hard it can be for a new kid to fit in. She meets her next-door neighbor, Nate, and his family, who are spending the summer at their cottage, and she and Nate quickly become good friends. Nate’s grandmother Lilah is in declining health, suffering from dementia, and her family fears this may be her last summer on the lake. Lilah has been in charge of keeping track of the loons on the lake for many years, but she is now too feeble to go on a boat, so Nate and his sister record the habits of the loons and report back to Grandma Lilah. Lucy joins them in tracking the loons and finds herself absorbed by their life and roots for their eggs to hatch and survive. Lucy is interested in photography and longs for her father’s approval, but he is a tough judge and she feels her photos don’t live up to his expectations. Then she learns of a contest he is judging and spends the summer taking photos, with Nate’s help, to enter into the contest. Will the loon babies hatch and survive? Will Grandma Lilah’s health continue to decline? Will Lucy’s father see his daughter’s talent? Lucy and the other characters learn some important life lessons over the summer. Full of real emotions and strong characters, this book is a great read for middle schoolers.