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Sugar and Ice Paperback – December 6, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

One moment Claire Boucher is tapping the sap from her family’s maple trees; the next she is plucked from obscurity by a coach who sees her skate in the Maple Show and offers a scholarship in Lake Placid. From there the story takes a familiar path, as Claire must pursue her dream even as she fights off the mean girls who inhabit the world of competitive skating. Messner is awfully good at individualizing what might otherwise be stock characters, especially Claire, whose eagerness and apprehension come in equal measure. Of course, the (sometimes) glamorous world of figure skating doesn’t hurt for drawing readers, and even those who don’t know their double toe loops from their single salchows will enjoy reading about what it takes to make it on the ice. Although this gets a bit melodramatic at the end, there are several twists that readers will enjoy. Satisfying and likely to have wide appeal. Grades 5-7. --Ilene Cooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-7–Claire Boucher is a busy seventh grader. She not only balances school with the responsibilities of work on her family farm, especially now that the maple sap is running, but also coaches young skaters at the nearby skating school. On the day that this delightful novel opens, she is rushing to get ready for the annual Maple Show. While she's aware that a famous Russian skating coach will be scouting, she is not hopeful that he's there for her. Competition terrifies her. But she lands her double toe loop and is offered a scholarship to the summer program at Lake Placid. But how can Claire ask her already busy parents to make the hour and a half drive three days a week? Does she really want to compete? Is she squandering her incredible talent if she chooses not to accept the offer? Messner has a flair for depicting engaging characters who are imperfect without being quirky. The dialogue between classmates and siblings is realistic, and the intergenerational or extended family relationships are interesting. The author shows the intensity of the world of competitive skating without dwelling on its rough edges, making it accessible not only to tween readers, but also to those who might have Olympic aspirations. There's a neat little twist in the plot and an ending that is sure to both surprise and resonate.–Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 710 (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens; Reprint edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802723306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802723307
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I adored reading this book and can't wait to share it! Sugar and Ice explores one girl's decision to follow her love of ice skating and accept a scholarship to a prestigious training center. She adjusts to her new routine, where skating lessons take up every ounce of free time. But it's harder to adjust to a new group of friends. I think Kids will love exploring what it means to start competing in major shows, how Claire has to figure out how to skate in her head and master the butterflies in her stomach, and how to handle the mean, super-competitive girls she's now skating with.
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Format: Hardcover
If all middle grade were written as well as this, I think I just might read middle grade forever. Kate Messner's second novel is just as fun, heartfelt, and engrossing as her first. It sent me in ecstacies of delight over how much I loved it!

Claire Boucher loves two things: her family's maple syrup farm and competitive ice-skating. So when she gets the chance to train at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Facility with a world-class coach, she is simultaneously terrified and excited. Making the commitment to the sport involves sacrifices--time with her family and best friend, long commutes several days a week--but it's also a dream come true for her.

Or is it? The more Claire immerses herself in the competitive ice-skating world, the more she realizes how cutthroat it is. Some of the girls who train with her would do almost anything to make it big, and Claire must decide just how much she's willing to sacrifice for her ice-skating dreams.

I don't know much about either collecting sap or ice-skating, but SUGAR AND ICE made me wish I were Claire. She is a delightful protagonist, full of love for her friends, family, and passion, but also young enough to experience the vulnerabilities of dealing with new situations. Her love for ice-skating is so inspiring--Kate Messner describes the skating scenes beautifully--that when she is knocked down by the cutthroat attitude of the ice-skating world, it breaks your heart. I constantly wanted to reach into the book and help Claire out a little: no, don't listen to that girl, she's just jealous of you! Skate for yourself and forget about how others might be judging you!

Supporting characters are colorful and varied. In particular, Tasanee, Claire's good training friend, is Asian, and likes to read popular paranormal YA.
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Format: Hardcover
They say to write what you know. We've all heard that line. It's bounced about countless writing groups. But there's an unspoken rule amongst children that's as pervasive as it is harmful: Read what you know. If you're a soccer fan, only read soccer books. If you like ballet, get a whole bunch of ballet books. Librarians, teachers, and parents can spend countless hours fighting against the sometimes innate understanding some children have acquired that dictates that they can't read about anything outside of the realm of their own (limited) experience. This might be understandable if you were dealing with a writer that played by his or her own rules and failed to let child readers in on the fun, but it's absolutely ridiculous when you're dealing with a book like Kate Messner's Sugar and Ice. Authors that commit to creating worlds that are outside the experience of your average everyday kid and yet are accessible enough for ALL children to enjoy are rare, but they're out there. Sugar and Ice is out there. And you don't have to be a fan of ice skating, Fibonacci, beekeeping, or sugar tapping to enjoy it (though it probably wouldn't hurt if you were).

For Claire Boucher life is pretty simple. Practice skating on the local cow pond. Help out at the small ice skating rink when possible. And for fun, do a segment during the local competition's Maple Festival. All that changes when Claire's routine for fun catches the eye of big-time muckety muck trainer Andrei Groshev. Groshev has a deal for Claire. He's offering her a scholarship to train with other students like herself for huge ice skating competitions. In return, Claire will have to sacrifice the life she's always known. Not a natural competitor, Claire accepts then almost immediately wonders what she's gotten herself into.
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Format: Paperback
I give the book four stars, not because it is the best book ever written but because it accurately shows the thoughts and emotions of very young girls, and how easily they can be manipulated and controlled. I fail to understand the mentality of pressuring and forcing children to work night and day to achieve...what? To be the best...what? Is there really nothing more to life than skating, or gymnastics or whatever the sport is? What has the child who has spent every waking hour practicing really achieved? Is the idea of being the "best" regionally, nationally, and the one in millions shot at the Olympics more important than everything else in life? I understand being passionate about a sport but I do not understand people who make tons of money off torturing children, and using up their entire lives, and the parents who go into debt to ensure this, all the while dangling that every elusive "being the best" carrot.

It seems to me that it would be much more healthy to support a child's love for the activity but even more, the importance of school, family, friendships, fun, a healthy approach to eating and body image, and a balance to life. Claire and all the other girls had to sacrifice all of these and this feels abusive to me. I wish the book had touched on how Claire's parents had felt about it, and been more involved in what was going on with her, but there again, such fanatical "coaching" seeks to separate the child from family, and become more easily controlled. Claire was just twelve, and had to navigate total minefields of unbelievable coaching pressure bordering on psychosis, dealing with jealousy, anger, guilt, judgment of performance and self, including appearance and weight.
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