Chance and the Butterfly
A Review by Gillian Martin Noonan
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
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.
Gillian Martin Noonan is a teacher living in Old Perlican, NF.
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.
About the Book