STRANDED ON THIN ICE is a gripping, middle-grade adventure novel that transpires over a single day. It crackles with tension like the ice of its location–upstate New York’s frozen Oneida Lake. Its preteen heroes begin the day striving to win a fishing contest and adult respect, but find themselves struggling to survive during a white-out storm.
Twelve-year-old Tanner Phillips and Richie Donald meet for the first time in the predawn chaos and cigarette smoke of Popper’s Bait Shop. Tanner has a wealth of skill and a strong desire to be acknowledged for it by the fishermen who ignore, jostle, and cut in front of him to buy minnows. Everyone’s getting ready for the annual Oneida fishing derby, including two menacing, yet unrelated outdoorsmen. They are Theo Biggs–a grease-covered town recluse who Tanner says, “doesn’t like anyone” and an unknown bully who the boys call “Earl’s Automotive”, based on the name emblazoned on his jacket.
STRANDED ON THIN ICE offers young readers a “you are there” real world experience of ice fishing replete, with smells (like the aroma of fried bologna and the stink of propane), as well as sensations, including frigid air and the pain of grabbing a walleye pike by its mouth full of razor-sharp teeth.
Sharon CassanoLochman (Man with the Sand Dollar Face) is an experienced writer who heads her own publishing house, Ontario Shore Publishing. In STRANDED, she keeps the plot traveling at a rapid clip, but doesn’t stint on characterization of the boys or the adults–both likable and disagreeable–who frame their buddy story.
The author creates an odd couple by pairing Tanner with Richie, who is clueless about fishing. Tanner loves sunrise at the lake; Richie would rather be in bed until daylight. Tanner is expert at baiting fish; Richie gets stomach sick at the sight of blood. And, in contrast to Tanner’s dad and grandpa, who spent years teaching him how to ice fish, Richie’s self-centered Uncle Todd doesn’t even make sure his nephew is properly clothed for a day on the ice. Like Richie’s uncle, Tanner resents being thrown together with a beginner fisherman, when he would rather focus on winning the contest. But the day becomes the learning and bonding experience of a lifetime for both boys–an invaluable prize.
Humor tempers peril in STRANDED ON THIN ICE, an excellent coming-of-age journey in which new friends join wits and will to overcome fearful challenges.
~Alicia Rudnicki for IndieReader