Half a Chance



Gentle story of girl photographer raises ethical issues.
ALA Best and Notable Books

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn about photography, especially how to tell a story in a picture. They'll learn about the importance of preserving wildlife, particularly loons and how to monitor them, and a little about kayaking. They'll also learn about the impact that Alzheimer's disease can have on a family.


Positive messages

Pursue what you love to do. Art can be important in your life. Art can reveal the truth.




Positive role models

Lucy wants to find out if her photography is as "special" as she hopes it is, and she's determined to enter a contest with the best pictures she can take. She's persistent in her endeavor and cares about the life of the loons on the lake at her new home. She's able to be a good friend to her new neighbors and to overcome her apprehension to learn a brand-new skill: kayaking.




Violence & scariness








Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Half a Chance, by Cynthia Lord, the Newbery Honor author of Rules, tells the story of 12-year-old Lucy, whose family has just moved to a cottage on a lake in New Hampshire in the summer. Lucy must establish new friendships and worries about fitting in when she starts a new school in the fall. The story features an elderly neighbor who demonstrates the beginnings of Alzheimer's disease and some ethical dilemmas for Lucy, who's anxious to gain the approval of her nature-photographer father.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

When Lucy and her family move from the Boston area to a small cottage on a New Hampshire lake, she meets her neighbors Nate and Emily, and together they go on Loon Patrol. Nate helps her scout out perfect pictures for the photography contest Lucy wants to enter to see how good her skills really are. But one day she takes a photo that threatens and angers Nate. Plus she's told him a big lie about the contest.

Is it any good?


The leisurely paced HALF A CHANCE explores thorny topics while telling a contemporary story with realistic characters. And it raises some intriguing ethical issues: Is it dishonest to enter a contest for which your father is the judge? Is it right to submit work that may make a private family issue public? Also, to what lengths do you go to win praise from a parent? 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about dementia. How could you help an aging relative or neighbor who's struggling with dementia?

  • Take several photographs and see if you can arrange them so they tell a compelling story.

  • Find out about which wild animals are in your area, why they may be important, what threatens them, and how you can help protect their lives.

Book details

Author:Cynthia Lord
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Arts and dance, Friendship, Great girl role models, Science and nature, Wild animals
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:February 20, 2014
Number of pages:218
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:7 - 8
Read alone:8 - 12
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

This review of Half a Chance was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Newbery honoree about life with an autistic sib.
  • Breathtaking catalog of living things inspires conservation.
  • Thrilling, touching adventure for animal lovers.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 11 years old May 18, 2014


I thought this book was just fine because it had NO action and it was so detailed. Too detailed. It was a class read aloud and my classmates are not into the story as much as we thought we would. I think it has some sad and hard parts that an advanced reader could figure out that's why I think 9 up. It makes you think and it includes many things kids won't know. I gave it 3 stars because I think the strong message and meaning is amazing.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass