Review of The Sea in Winter

The Sea in Winter
by Christine Day
Intermediate, Middle School    Heartdrum/HarperCollins    256 pp.    g
1/21    978-0-06-287204-3    $16.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-307822-2    $12.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-287206-7    $8.99

“My ballet studio has always been my sanctuary.” In October, twelve-year-old Maisie suffered a devastating knee injury and subsequent ACL surgery. Now it’s February, and with hard work and physical therapy she has been cleared to go on a winter-break hiking trip to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula with her parents and younger brother. Maisie’s family is Native — her mom is Makah; her father, who has passed away, was Piscataway; her stepfather, Jack, is an enrolled citizen of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and eager for their journey to the Elwha River. On vacation, Maisie, in a rush to prove her recovery and without dealing with the emotional fallout from her surgery, reinjures herself. The story takes place primarily over the course of four days, during which we get to know Maisie’s family uncommonly well through quotidian details and worldview-encompassing conversations; secondary characters, too, are nuanced and vividly drawn. Maisie’s pain is specific to her experience while being relatable to many readers going through big life changes. Her alienation, denial, and despair make her eventual opening up feel cathartic and narratively earned. The Pacific Northwest setting is atmospherically described and indicative of this Native blended family’s formative experiences. An appended author’s note provides more details about the Native history touched on in the story.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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