Summary: The Sea in Winter
The Sea in Winter is the story of 12-year-old ballet dancer Maisie Cannon who is recovering from a torn ACL. Maisie is Native American and part of a blended family; her mom remarried after her father’s death and she has a younger half-brother. With regard to her heritage, her mom is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her stepfather, Jack, is from the Elwha Klallam Tribe.
Maisie is miserable because her two closest (and only) friends Eva and Hattie are also ballerinas and now that she isn’t dancing, it’s too difficult to maintain her friendships with them. She’s also struggling with how slowly she’s recovering and is a bit depressed in general because of how much she loves ballet and how tightly woven into her identity it was.
Maisie’s family takes a trip during winter break to hike a bit and also learn more about her ethnic history. During the trip, things come to a head emotionally for her and she’s forced to address many unpleasant emotions and reconnect with her family.
I enjoyed the storytelling in this book. You know how some stories just make you slow down? This was one of those. Christine Day’s writing is very evocative and immersive. You can feel all of Maisie’s emotions and almost self-loathing as she struggles with the fact that she feels so negatively about many things. I also loved her relationship with her family — stepdad, brother, and even the gentle, patient way her mom deals with her attitude and mood changes.
A huge part of this story is Maisie’s cultural heritage and Native American history. I learned so much about Native American history and the challenges several tribes have faced over the years — definitely eye opening. It’s always refreshing to see a positive portrayal of blended families where parents are loving and able to handle the feelings of the children. Writing is also something that Maisie really enjoys and gravitates toward throughout the book. And finally, this book is therapy-positive as Maisie eventually has to get help to deal with her emotions and trauma.
Overall: The Sea in Winter
Christine Day’s writing is always quiet, poignant, and insightful, and The Sea in Winter is especially so. Maisie is a deeply introspective character whose suffering will be deeply felt by all who read this book. Yet, this book manages to be uplifting with the help of Maisie’s brother Connor and her warm, loving family and friends. If you enjoy middle-grade books with a touch of ballet, heartwarming sibling dynamics, books featuring blended families, and characters dealing with friendship issues and mental health struggles, this is one to read. Most importantly, however, this is a much welcome addition to a too-small roster of books by Native American authors.
Buy This Book
Have you read this book or Christine Day’s debut — I Can Make This Promise? What did you think? Are you a winter setting or summer setting lover? I love books set in summer, but I’ve enjoyed so many books set in winter recently.