Earlier this week I finished reading a fantastic middle grade/tween book and I can not recommend it enough. Kate Messner’s Sugar and Ice is a book you should be handing to all of your middle grade readers. It’s just perfect! Reading it, I was transported to Lake Placid and could almost feel the snowflakes in the air and smell the maple syrup on Claire’s family farm.
Claire Boucher loves to ice skate. She skates on the cow pond as soon as it is safely frozen over and she loves coaching the little kids down at the town rink. However, she does not compete, since she freezes up in front of judges. Instead, she just skates because she loves it. When she performs as the lead in the town’s Maple Festival, she catches the eye of a scout from Lake Placid. He is looking for local skaters who are talented enough to join him at the Olympic Center. When he approaches Claire and offers her a scholarship to train with him and other talented skaters, she assumes her parents will turn it down. And she is ok with that. But when her parents shock her by saying yes, because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity, Claire finds herself in a whole new world. She is not naturally competitive and the other skaters around her live and breathe skating. Is Claire ready to leave her life behind and step into the spotlight? And does she have time to skate and stay on top of the homework in her advanced math class?
Messner is a master at capturing the tween brain. (Probably because she spends so much time with them as a mother and teacher!) Claire is easy to relate to and you are immediately drawn into her world. Readers don’t have to be ice skaters, beekeepers, of Fibonacci-lovers to fall in love with Sugar and Ice. The characters are strong and well-drawn, the setting is gorgeous, and the ice skating competitions will leave you on the edge of your seat.
As a teacher, I loved Messner’s references to other books (Hattie Big Sky, Twilight, Need). I was also thrilled to see that Claire loves math and has a fascination with Fibonacci. Her school project is woven seamlessly into the plot and I found myself constantly learning something new. It’s so awesome to read about a female main character who loves math and it proud of it. It even helps her connect with the cute boy in her ice skating group! Hopefully, this will also catch the minds of tween readers.
And finally, this book can also be booktalked as a mystery. While at Lake Placid, Claire’s belongings are sabotaged. Throughout the book you are left wondering who is doing these awful things. I’ll admit, I was pretty sure I knew who was doing it and I ended up being wrong. It was a great twist.
Highly, highly recommended for middle grade readers. I’ve already passed my copy on to my 6th grade sister- the highest compliment I can give a middle grade novel these days!
*ARC courtesy of the publisher