Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner

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

Kate Messner Talks about Sugar and Ice

I am thrilled to be interviewing Kate Messner today!  Her latest middle grade novel, Sugar and Ice, will be released this week and it is absolutely wonderful! I already passed my ARC on to my 6th grade sister because I just know that she will adore it as much as I did. (Look for my review later this week!)

Right now, I am so happy to introduce Kate!  She is an amazing writer, teacher, and mom, which leaves me in awe.

 

So Kate, when did you decide that you wanted to be a writer? And once you did decide, how did you get into a routine of writing daily?


I’ve always been a writer, since I could hold a pencil. When I was in elementary school and junior high, I did a lot of creative writing, but as I got older and had more homework, I put that writing mostly on hold. It was after I was a mom and teacher that I really rediscovered the stories I’d loved as a kid and started writing for myself again.

When I started working on my first book, I wasn’t really in a good routine; I’d write in fits and starts, stealing a few hours on a weekend and then not getting back to the project for weeks. However, as my kids got a little older, I got better at setting aside time for writing each night, which is what I do now.

 

What is it like to be a writer and a full-time teacher and a mom? How do you do it all?

Actually, I find that my writing, teaching, and mothering lives complement each other beautifully! When I have to take a research trip, whether it’s up the road to Montreal or across the country, the whole family usually comes, and we make a bigger trip out of it.

As an English teacher, I find that being a writer lends a sense of credibility and vulnerability to the job. I think I tend to empathize much better with my students when I have to go home and revise myself at the end of the school day! And of course, it affords us lots of opportunities to talk about craft, since I share my editors’ revision notes and my own struggles with writing with my kids.

 

When you first got the idea for Sugar and Ice, what came first? Did Claire come to you as a character, or was the concept/plot the first thing?

To be totally honest, this book kind of happened by accident. My daughter had signed up for a basic skills skating camp in Lake Placid, and I was going to drop her off and head for the coffee shop across the street to revise my other book, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. I’d apparently missed the small print in the registration materials, though, and didn’t realize that when I signed the girl up for skating camp, I had also signed myself up for a skater-mom education program.

For the first fifteen minutes, I kept trying to devise ways to escape…but then I really started listening to the experts who gave presentations. Thousand dollar skate blades? Really? And then there was the sports psychologist who really captured my imagination with her stories of how she works with skaters to keep the sport healthy amid all the competition. What a perfect world for a book for kids! I was sold…and started taking notes that afternoon.

Claire came to me later on, as I was wondering what kind of kid might have the most difficulty adjusting to that fast-paced, competitive skating lifestyle. I thought it would be interesting to take a girl from a small-town maple farm and see how she managed in a world of mean girls on ice.

 

I know you are also working on a teacher resource book that focuses on revision. What have you learned about revision that you did not know before by focusing so much on the topic?

Enough to write a whole book! Honestly, this project was one of the best things I’ve ever done, not only in terms of the actual book, which I love, but because I learned so much that I can use in my teaching and writing lives. I interviewed more than forty authors about their revision processes and learned that while our goals are the same, everyone has their own little tricks and pet strategies that make the revision road an easier one to travel.

I added about a million tricks to my own revision toolbox as I worked on this book. It features lots of the strategies I used when I was revising SUGAR AND ICE and THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, and it also includes lots of tips from other authors, all adapted in ways that can be used in the classroom. The title is REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS, and it’ s due out from Stenhouse this spring.

 

What is your favorite go-to snack when you are writing?

Oh, that’s easy. Chocolate. Always chocolate.

 

You are also a 7th grade teacher.  What book are you recommending to your students right now? Alternately, what book(s) are they just devouring?

I just got back from the NCTE/ALAN conference with two boxes of books for my kids, and they’ve descended on them like vultures. There’s a big wait-list for dystopian titles like MATCHED by Ally Condie and the ARC of DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth, due out in May. Kids are also loving the books I had signed to them by Wendy Mass and Lisa Yee.

My students are also loving GIRL, STOLEN by April Henry, OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper, TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord, ALABAMA MOON and DIRT ROAD HOME by Watt Key, THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy, HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford, NEED by Carrie Jones, HARMONIC FEEDBACK by Tara Kelly, MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jackie Dolamore, and sports books by Tim Green and Mike Lupica.

And of course, some of the books I can’t quite manage to put into the classroom library until I’ve had a chance to read them! I just finished an ARC of Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT tonight (amazing!) and started reading an ARC of Jenny Moss’s TAKING OFF, set around the time of the Challenger disaster (also amazing so far!).

 

Wow!  Those are some amazing books.  And like you, I held back my copy of WHERE SHE WENT so that I could read it first.  It’s one of the perks of being the teacher!  Don’t worry, though- I already passed it on to a voracious reader. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by, Kate!  It’s been a pleasure hosting you!

 

Want a personalized, signed copy of SUGAR AND ICE?

The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a SUGAR AND ICE launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, December 11th, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at (518) 523-2950 by December 10th. They’ll take your order, have Kate sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays.

Sugar and Ice

Junior Library Guild Selection

Winter 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List

Amazon Best Books for December 2010

 

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s maple farm. But all that changes when Claire is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity- a scholarship to train with the elite skaters in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire soon realizes that her sweet dream-come-true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

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