SUGAR AND ICE by Kate Messner, Walker & Co., 2010
Claire is a normal 12 year old who loves her life on the farm in Mojimuk Falls, NY. She goes maple sugaring with her parents, swaps made up stories with her kindly grandpa, and creates story lines and plays with her two rambunctious younger brothers. Not only is she a talented skater, but she enjoys the distinction of being the youngest coach in the Northern Lights Skating Club. The youngest coach is in charge of the smallest skaters. Claire spends many happy hours at the skating club with her best friend, Natalie, who, by contrast, is a devoted beekeeper.
Then Claire is offered a scholarship with Russian skating coach Andrei Groshev. It’s a chance to train with elite skaters in Lake Placid which is an hour and a half away from her home. She agrees and then learns how demanding this can be. For starters, she’s expected to practice in Lake Placid three times a week. Even the full support of family and friends doesn’t stop her wondering if the real competition isn’t between her farm life and her performing life. How can she manage her life and keep the best of both worlds?
And those other skaters? The “elites”? A working title for this book could have been Mean Girls on Ice.
In spite of the intense personal competition, Claire makes at least three good friends in the skating world. One, Luke, is as excited about math as Claire is. He regales her with his Fibonacci jokes. Another conflict looms. Claire would love to participate in the MathCounts competition, but skating continues to expand to fill her time.
As Claire spins and twirls on the ice, she’s lifted by the music of her routines, Vivaldi’s Autumn, and the theme song from Raiders of the Lost Ark. When the music stops, her mind is still spinning. It’s difficult to be twelve and have so many choices and so many pressures. Home? Friends? Talents?
Moms don’t have to worry about reading this first. It could be a good springboard to discussion about the kinds of choices that make people happy.
The author decided to write this book when she took her daughter for a basic skills skating camp at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid. When she saw how intensely competitive sports can be, she also became interested in sports psychology, which runs throughout Sugar and Ice, too.
It's hard to stop with one popsicle. That’s also true of writing a book—or reading one. One always leads to another.
Learn more at the author’s website.