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Chance and the Butterfly
Every time Chance turns around, he gets in trouble. His new foster home is a cold, unwelcoming place where the foster parents’ son hates him. In his third grade classroom he’s been pegged as a problem child: he cannot sit still for two minutes together; reading is hard for him, and math seems forever beyond his reach. But Chance finds science fascinating, especially if it has to do with living creatures.
Then a long-awaited box arrives in the classroom. It contains tiny caterpillars and all that is needed to raise them into butterflies. For Chance, school has suddenly become fun again. He chooses one of the caterpillars to be his own. One day, he slips it into his pocket and takes it home. What follows could lead to tragedy. Or it could lead to friendship and healing.
About the Book
I used to be a substitute teacher in elementary schools and once I was invited to spend a week in a classroom where they were raising butterflies. By the end of the week, I had an idea for a book!
And it wasn’t because of the butterflies as much as it was because of the boy. His name was not Chance. He was not Chance. I don’t know who he was, really, because I never found out anything about his life away from school. But in my classroom, that week, I think that he was the unhappiest child that I had ever met. He could not sit still. He hurt other children. He was sent to the principal’s office almost every recess and lunch. Once or twice, he ended up right on top of the desks, in a rage. He struggled with the school work.
But he loved the butterflies. When I arrived on Monday morning, the caterpillars had all formed into chrysalides and the teacher had attached them to the butterfly bush, a small tree under netting on a big round table in the corner of the classroom. Every time I turned around, all week long, I would find the boy there (I’ll call him Chance) watching those chrysalides.
By Friday, all of the butterflies had emerged and we were supposed to release them, but when I tried to give one to Chance, he kept his hands behind his back and refused to look at me. When we started off down to the field, he disappeared and I had to go in search of him. I found him by the door of the school, crying and crying because he did not want to release the butterflies. I took him by the hand and led him to the field. But we did not release all the butterflies that morning. One was still back in the classroom, too new, her wings too wet and crinkly to fly.
That afternoon, she was ready. I called Chance over and asked him if now he would like to release a butterfly. He nodded his head. I stood in the doorway of the classroom and watched him step out into the sunlight, lift the container up to the sky and let the small creature go free. Chance came back into the school, alight with joy. And there, I decided, was a book.
I went back the next year to see the rest of the butterfly-raising process, to take pictures and notes. And I began to write. The boy in my class turned into Chance, a troubled foster child, just arrived in a new family where the older boy hates him. By the end of the story, better relationships have formed and Chance is ready to consider his new place a home.
I am thrilled now to see the book out in a new edition. The boy who inspired my story must be through high school by now, and I have not been an elementary school teacher for many years, though I still visit schools regularly. The other day, I was in a middle school, and a boy put up his hand.
“My name is Chance,” he said! I had never met a boy named Chance before.
I hope that you enjoy meeting the Chance in my story.
Maggie de Vries
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