Do you remember the first time you read Cynthia Lord's Rules? I do. I recommended it to everyone who would listen to me. Students. Teachers. Strangers in bookshops. It is a forever book! Therefore, you can imagine how honored I am that Cynthia Lord agreed to finish my sentences. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Cynthia!
Cynthia Lord talks about Half a Chance at 2:10.
Lucy, Nate, and Grandma Lilah are the major characters in my newest middle-grade novel, Half a Chance. Twelve-year-old Lucy, enters a photography scavenger-hunt contest. The judge of the contest is her dad, a famous photographer. Lucy knows that if she puts her own name on her entry, he won’t judge her objectively. So she completes the contest with her next-door neighbor, Nate. One day Lucy is waiting for Nate, and she takes a photo of his grandmother in a moment when Grandma Lilah is confused. She is losing her memories and all the hard things she’s experiencing are in her face in the photo’s split second of time. It’s an amazing, powerful, truthful, horrible photo. And Lucy knows it’s a photo that could win.
The setting for Half a Chance is a lake in New Hampshire, where I grew up. I used that lake, plus several others to create the world of Half A Chance.
Photography plays an important part not only with keeping Grandma Lilah connected to her world, but there are ethical issues involved with taking pictures. In our world, it has become so easy to snap a photo and send it all around the world. We often do so without much thought, but before we push “send” or “post” it’s good to ask yourself a few questions. Who owns that photo? Do you owe anything to the people shown in the photo? If the photo is news or art does that change your answer?
When the 2007 Newbery Committee called it was a true surprise. The Schneider Committee had called my house the day before. I was so excited that Rules had won The Schneider Family Book Award that it never occurred to me that my phone might ring again. I almost didn’t answer the call! I was trying hard to access the live ALA broadcast to watch the Schneider Award given when the phone rang. It was one of the biggest moments of my life when I spoke to the Newbery Committee that day.
Reading is a way to live a million lives. It provides a window to other people and places and yet, sometimes, the person we discover and learn most about is ourselves.
Picture books are for everyone. I think of a great picture book like a pearl: small, glorious, glowing with a graceful simplicity, including everything that’s essential, but nothing more. A whole truth in a tiny package.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me...what’s next! In August, I have two books coming. We have our first early reader for our “Hot Rod Hamster” series (Hot Rod Hamster and the Wacky Whatever Race), and I have a new chapter book series called “Shelter Pet Squad” that features a group of kids who volunteer at their local animal shelter. They find a home for a pet in each book. The first one is called Jelly Bean, and he is a guinea pig.
Mr. Schu, thank you for this interview, but even more so, thank you for all the wonderful things you do for readers every day, everywhere.
Thank you, Cynthia!
Thank you, Cynthia!
I am giving away one copy of Half a Chance.
Rules for the Giveaway
1. It will run from May 9 to 11:59 p.m. CDT on May 11.
2. You must be at least 13.
3. Please pay it forward.
Borrow Half a Chance from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.