Title: A Chance in the World (Young Readers Edition)
Author: Steve Pemberton
Major Themes: Foster Children, Abuse, Steve Pemberton
Synopsis: Born into a world of broken homes and broken, hopeless lives, Steve didn’t know who he was, but even though he daily experienced hunger, beatings, and mistreatment, he never lost hope for a better life.
I had never heard of A Chance in the World, or of Steve Pemberton, but when I read the description of this book for young readers, it sounded like one I would enjoy. I’m always looking for books to read to my children, too, so I requested a review copy of this.
Steve could not remember his mother. In fact, all he knew was mistreatment. He was five when he was placed in the Robinson home as a foster child, after two years of being bounced from one foster home to another. Though his first impression of Betty Robinson was of a loving mother, that changed as soon as the social worker left the house. Steve became a slave to be beaten, starved, and worked hard. He was also constantly told that he was worthless and would never amount to anything.
Steve’s only escape was reading. He had to hide to read, but he could escape his nightmare of a life for a time by reading—and then a loving neighbor started giving him books! These books gave him hope of life beyond the Robinson Rules. Here and there through the years, someone would show Steve some love and care, which kept him going in hope that someday he would escape.
Once he was grown, Steve was able to fulfill a life-long dream and search for his family. What he found was sad and startling, but also rewarding. He also found a wife and finally had a family of his own, and became a successful businessman.
Steve Pemberton’s story is proof that our current circumstances, and the family we are born into, does not have to define our life. As he states about the broken families that are his legacy,
What makes a family is neither the absence of tragedy nor the ability to hide from misfortune. Families are built by the courage to overcome that broken past and write a new beginning.
What a powerful statement! Our family has experienced tragedy, and we know the truth of this statement. What we went through together has strengthened our family and made us closer to each other.
I decided not to read A Chance in the World aloud, since our six-year-old is not ready to hear about things like Steve experienced, yet. I would have not problem, though, in allowing a 12- or 13-year-old to read it. This book will inspire people to see the potential in troubled children. It gives hope for the future to those who come from broken homes and the people who work with them.
There are questions at the end of many chapters to help the reader think through his or her own life in light of what was related in the story. I think this book would be best read by children or teens with an adult to help them talk through the difficult experiences described by Steve, and the questions will help with discussion.
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
WARNING: Beatings are described in chapters 9 and 26. There is also a lot of lying.
Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15