Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sugar and Ice is Everything Nice!

Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner was the perfect read today on a cold and snowy "ice" day.

Although I was never even close to an elite athlete (I still shudder at the memory of me performing on the uneven parallel bars at a high school gymnastics meet!), I am an avid fan of athletics. The main character in Sugar and Ice, Claire, is an incredibly gifted ice skater. I can't count how many times I've watched ice skating on tv or how often I've taped the Olympics when I knew the ice skaters would be performing. So, frequently throughout the story, when Claire was performing her routines, I could visualize what they looked like.

Claire lives in Mojimuk Falls, NY, where she leads a fairly simple life -- middle school, helping out her family when it came to tapping the trees for maple sap, hanging out with her best friend, and skating. Claire loves to skate -- she skates on the cow pond as soon as it freezes, she skates at the town's ice rink, and she teaches younger children to skate as well. From time to time she performs in the annual Mojimuk Falls' annual skating exhibition. Only this year, a Russian coach who trains skaters at Lake Placid sees her performance and offers her a scholarship to train with him.

What I loved about this story is that it really develops Claire as a character over time, and it also explores the somtimes unkind, cutthroat side of competitive skating. Remembering the Nancy Kerrigan incident at the Olympics so vividly, I was shocked at what a young age that can happen. I was glad Messner didn't make all the skaters like that, but it is a real problem in the story.

But as Claire learns, grows, and develops as a skater, she is also doing the same as a person. Trying to balance her home life with her skating life, trying to maintain a friendship with her best friend from childhood, trying to develop new friendships with the skaters with whom she spends so much time, trying to navigate the feelings of having a crush on a boy -- Claire deals with all of this as well as the drama that awaits her on the ice.

I can see my students (probably mostly girls) reading Sugar and Ice and having great conversations about how much they'd be willing to give up to follow a dream or a passion. All I will say is that Kate Messner wrote the perfect ending for Sugar and Ice - very rarely do I say that about a book, but this ending is just right.

For another review, see Franki's post at A Year of Reading.


  1. Your review made me move this book up to the top of my to-read list.

    I love ice-skating but have always hated how movies and books portray it inaccurately, writers never learning the jargon of the sport. It sounds like Kate Messner did her homework.

  2. I have a little skater at home that would love this story. You are the second person to recommend it to me.

  3. Thanks for the great post, it's in our library cart for my fifth grader. We've been ice skating a lot but I also think she is thinking about juggling lots of things as we bridge from 5th to 6th grade.

  4. Wow - what an amazing blog. Wish I had discovered it ages ago when I was trying to source books for reading groups at our school. I will definitely be returning to this.
    Is there any way to obtain or do a search for the books you have reviewed according to age recommendations?
    Looking forward to reading more posts.

  5. As girls sports / athletics get more competitive, it's so great to see books addressing how to balance those ambitions with the other aspects of life. I can think of a number of girls that I will definitely be recommending this book to! Thanks for the great post.

    Betsy Parkes