Review of The Sea in Winter, by Christine Day
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The Children’s Book Review
The Sea in Winter
Written by Christine Day
Ages 8-12 | 272 Pages
Publisher: HarperCollins | ISBN-13: 9780063078222
What to Expect: Trauma, Recovery, Blended Family, Mental Health, and Native American Voices
Learning to live with and recover from trauma is a reality that many children and their families sadly face. The Sea in Winter, written by award-winning author Christine Day, tells the story of Maisie, a seventh-grader who is coming to terms with a knee injury that is keeping her from dancing ballet. As this moving tale of loss, tragedy, resistance, resilience, triumph, and joy unfolds, Maisie discovers things about her Native American history and her blended family that highlight the importance of being able to identify one’s own pain and recognize it in others—both essential in learning self-love and empathy.
How do you find the strength to move on from something difficult? It’s winter break and Maisie should be at dance auditions, alongside her friends Eva and Hattie, in preparation for the opportunity to attend a premiere dance school over the summer. The ballet studio has always been Maisie’s sanctuary. However, four months earlier, she tore her ACL and she must now recover from surgery. If she continues on her path of physical healing, she may be able to dance again soon. But sometimes, after a trauma, it’s more than just physical healing that is required. Maisie will need to reckon with herself to overcome her physical setback and the inner dialogue that is beginning to isolate her from her friends and family.
Just like life, The Sea in Winter is multi-layered. Author Christine Day does an incredible job of weaving the past with the present, highlighting these deep connections and the importance of family and history. Maisie’s family history is important and meaningful not just to Maisie but to all of us. Native voices, a blended family, and even a few subtle Pride nods are effortlessly included, making this book an excellent pick for any middle-grade fans of either contemporary stories or historical fiction. The natural yet intentional quality of Day’s storytelling provides equity and representation for our children’s bookshelves.
Maisie’s voice is very relatable. Readers will readily connect with her inner turmoil, dipping grades, and the loneliness she feels as she deals with the personal loss and emotions of not being able to do the one thing she loves to do most. Day’s characters are charming, especially Maisie’s younger, pirate-obsessed half-brother Connor. Maisie and her friends’ positive text message conversations are reassuring and admirable and demonstrate to young readers what it looks like to be genuine and kind. The ocean setting, which is typically the setting for summer stories, is very refreshing:
“The fog has rolled even farther back, a clouded gray wall miles off the shore. There are still tendrils of mist threaded through the evergreens that rise along the surrounding bluffs. But the sky is peeking through the thinning white haze overhead, in pale blue patches. And these flashes of blue have deepened the color of the water to sapphire.”
It’s important to note that that the book itself is also historic as it is part of the first list of books to be published by Heartdrum—a Native-focused imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, which offers stories about young Native heroes by Native and First Nations’ authors and illustrators.
The Sea in Winter is a thoughtful, well-paced, and compelling story about the importance of taking the time to heal. Children who have experienced a loss, heartbreak, or any kind of trauma will certainly feel seen and will hopefully come away with the understanding that pain is temporary. “Dreams change. Realities change. People change. We all go through it in different ways.” The Sea in Winter is medicine for the heart. Highly Recommended!
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About the Author
Christine Day is the author of The Sea in Winter and I Can Make This Promise, which was a best book of the year from Kirkus, School Library Journal, NPR, and the Chicago Public Library as well as an American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book and a Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book.
You can visit her online at www.bychristineday.com.
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