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Stranded on Thin Ice

Sharon CassanoLochman’s Stranded on Thin Ice takes readers through a day-long class on Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Pre-teens Tanner and Richie quickly became fast friends on the day of an ice fishing derby. Tanner had bad luck at last year’s competition, but now has his eyes set on a brand new prize 4-wheeler and a fishing hut. Richie, a little less starry-eyed, is sort of dragged along for the ride with his uncle, at least at first. Reminiscent of John Reynolds Gardiner’s Little Willy of Stone Fox, the boys are thrown into a winter competition against big, burly, sometimes ornery grown men. They are met with one obstacle after another as they brace themselves against both the competition and the frigid, unforgiving weather conditions.

We meet loveable 12-year-old Tanner Phillips as he’s pushing his way through a mob of bearded, smoky-smelling men at Popper’s Bait Shop in an all-but-failed attempt to buy minnows. Tanner gets passed over time and time again as he juts his money out at Dom, the store owner. Tanner feels invisible to everyone over the age of 13. He feels overlooked by his father, the bait shop patrons, Dom, and basically everyone else in the world. He doesn’t feel like a little kid anymore, but he knows everyone else still sees him that way. He also feels that he is a failure in the eyes of his father. He made a pretty big mistake at last year’s ice fishing derby by letting a fishing pole get yanked down through the ice by a fish. He paid for it by staring into an ice hole empty-handed for the entire day, and still has not lived it down. He desperately wants to redeem himself and gain the approval of his father by winning the grand prize for the derby, a new 4-wheeler and a new fishing hut.

Tanner meets Richie Donald as he decides to just help himself to the minnow tanks. Richie is a tall, skinny boy in ill-fitting clothing. Not only are his clothes ill-fitting, but they are not a match for the frigid day he’s about to face. He is accompanied by a hateful uncle who doesn’t really want him around, but has been forced to spend time with him. He seems like he really needs a friend, and is lucky to have found Tanner.

It isn’t long before Tanner’s Dad has to leave Lake Oneida, leaving Tanner to set up the fishing hut and get started on his own. This is the first time Tanner will have to prove himself on derby day. It won’t be the last. Almost instantly, “whatever can go wrong” starts going wrong. Richie isn’t much help through most of the day’s obstacles, but they still work together to meet them head on. Together they face menacing competitors, an unrelenting winter storm, a fight against the possibility of frostbite, and of course, getting stranded on thin ice.

This fast-paced tale of determination, friendship, and redemption is great for readers of all ages. I cheered Tanner and Richie on from the edge of my seat as I watched them navigate through their horrific day. I also hoped for the redemption of some of the more menacing characters. Sharon CassanoLochman did not disappoint in either area. Comic relief provided by the boys’ dialogue keeps things from getting too heavy. The story is written brilliantly, and keeps interest piqued until the very end. I did not want to put it down.

Pages: 170 | ASIN: B07732BKVM

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