________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 20 . . . . June 6, 2002

cover Chance and the Butterfly. (An Orca Young Reader).

Maggie de Vries.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2001.
151 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 1-55143-208-0.

Subject Headings:
Problem children-Juvenile fiction.
Foster home care-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Gillian Noonan.

**** /4


At least Mark had never glanced at Chance's closed fist or asked what he was carrying. So, as Chance huffed and puffed along, he turned over ideas about where Matilda was going. In his room, of course. He thought it would be good for her to have a bigger space than that puny plastic thing. And maybe some leaves, some real food. The video on Painted Ladies that the class had watched had said caterpillars liked leaves. In class, Ms. Samson had talked about making a chart of all the plants that Painted Lady caterpillars and butterflies liked to eat, but they hadn't done it yet. Never mind. He would give her some leaves and let her live like a caterpillar was really supposed to. Well, sort of. A caterpillar wasn't really supposed to live in a house or a classroom or a little plastic container or a big comfy cage. A caterpillar was supposed to be free, Chance thought about that for a moment. It had never occurred to him to let Matilda go. She belonged to him. Didn't she?

Chance, the title character in Maggie de Vries' Chance and the Butterfly, is an eight-year-old third grader caught in foster care. His life has been filled with mistrust and hardship such that he has grown to fit the label "problem child" often applied to him by teachers and other caregivers. The other title character, the butterfly, is appropriately chosen to represent how Chance believes the system views him. At the beginning of the story, Chance has come to live with a new foster family, a family with two other children -- 10 year old Mark (their own son) and baby Louise (another foster child). The parents are kind and welcoming. The mother, Angie, is preoccupied with dealing with Louise who is a colicky, fretful child. The father is often absent but tries his best to help Chance cope with the realities of his young life. Mark, however, does not like having foster children in his home. He takes his feelings out on Chance at every available opportunity, thereby leading Chance to retaliate and to be the problem.

     A new school is another reality for Chance. His classmates take an almost immediate dislike to him which leads the reader to wonder what the teacher, Ms. Samson, told them prior to Chance's arrival. The teacher, nevertheless, is compassionate towards Chance. It is in Ms. Samson's science class that Chance learns about caterpillars and butterflies. The caterpillars are of special interest to Chance, and his studies eventually lead him to bring one home where he is faced with confiding in Mark. de Vries paints a poignant picture of Chance. The reader is immediately drawn to him as Chance is drawn to the caterpillar. Little of Chance's previous life is discussed directly, and so readers are left to draw their own conclusions from the few statements that Chance makes. The relationship with Mark is well portrayed. His negative feelings toward the foster children in his home are easily understood as is his softening towards Chance and the caterpillar now in residence in Chance's room.

     The story is captivating. Readers will be easily touched by Chance and will want to know how his life progresses -- will he be faced with more loss due to his actions, or will his action this time lead to friendship with his foster brother and a place in this family and school? Thematically, this is a multilayered story about relationships and their role in self-discovery. For Chance, there is the caregiving relationship with the caterpillar, a tentative relationship with Mark, and a slow developing relationship with Ken, a Chinese classmate who is also a new boy and an outsider. It is this latter relationship which brings to Chance's life a friendship which makes him feel worthwhile within his peer group.

     This is a story which deserves to be shared orally and discussed with children. As the tale of a realistic young outsider who may already exist within the schoolyard of those who read it, Chance and the Butterfly will touch the hearts and minds of those who experience it.

Highly recommended.

Gillian Martin Noonan is a teacher living in Old Perlican, NF.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364