Set in rural Maine, this warm novel reminds me so much of my ice-skating escapades while growing up in Connecticut. My brother and sister, our neighbors and I tested the ice on the small pond in the field until we knew it was ready and safe. Sometimes it was so clear we could see through it like a window to another world, that of sunfish and salamanders, still active under the ice. Clear ice was usually smooth and ideal for skating. Other times it was milky-white and bumpy; our teeth rattled as we skated over icy ridges. Once I tripped on a twig standing upright in the ice and split my lip. My mother applied a butterfly bandage and I was soon back on the ice. If a dry snow fell, we could sweep the ice clear with a broom, but if it was wet, we were through with skating. In a really cold winter, the larger lakes froze over and our parents came with us to skate longer and farther into coves and round wooded points. I never skated at a rink or indoors as a child. To me, skating was, and still is, an outdoor activity, entrenched in the natural world.
Obed’s prose is beautiful: “The morning field ice came was like no other. Ice froze upon our day, and at school we could not think clearly – math and geography and reading were frozen solid.” (p. 14). She uses words most creatively: “Then we’d follow Dad again until the stream SMALLED to a brook of bent alders.” (p. 16, capitalization emphasis mine) Her analogies are lovely and lyrical, as in this ode to silver: “We sped to silver speeds at which lungs and legs, clouds and sun, wind and cold, raced together. Our blades spit out silver. Our lungs breathed out silver. Our minds burst with silver while the winter sun danced silver down our bending backs.” (p. 19). McLintock’s black and white drawings contribute additional grace and spirit. My favorite is on page 17, where the two girls are weaving along the meanders of a brook lined with bent alders.
My warmest thanks to Obed & McClintock for bringing back these wonderful memories and introducing me to a family and community of skaters. I loved it so much that I gifted it to my sister.