Maisie Cannon may only be 12 years old, but she’s already found her passion in life: ballet. She’s bored by the daily monotony of school because she knows that the only lessons that will impact her future are the ones she gets at the dance studio, where she finds sanctuary amid the barres and music.
So when Maisie suffers a life-changing knee injury and must quit ballet and attend physical therapy for months in order to recover, it affects her more deeply than she or her parents anticipated. Cut off from the sheer joy of dance as well as the friends with whom she shares her passion, Maisie sinks into depression and isolation. A family trip back to her roots in the Native American Makah community may be her best chance to find a new way forward.
Christine Day’s second novel, The Sea in Winter is unflinching in its portrayal of Maisie’s depression and the effect it has on her relationships with her family and friends. Day conveys Maisie’s feelings of despair and hopelessness with gravity and sensitivity, treating her young protagonist’s emotions with the respect they deserve. Sharing Maisie’s story would be an excellent way to open a dialogue between young readers and adults about mental health.
Day’s depiction of Maisie’s deepening understanding of her family’s Native American identity and heritage is just as well done. Scenes in which Maisie’s mother and stepfather share stories of family and tribal heritage are sure to prompt young readers to learn more about their own family stories.
The Sea in Winter is a refreshing and moving story of grief and healing from one of middle grade’s brightest rising stars.