Just regrouping after spending several days on Galliano Island helping a friend set up for an art show. I love going there because she is a gardener extraordinaire in addition to creating the most beautiful fused glass work. I keep nagging her to get a website up, but she is too busy creating in her tiny studio and gardening to sit at a computer. I have several of her bowls as well as a stunning white glass window with poppies that she built me for my birthday. I helped her weed massive beds where she has hundreds of species of irises, grasses, sedges, hostas, euphorbia, four different species of elderberries, a beautiful, golden half moon maple, and dozens of plants that I never knew existed until I came across them in her garden. The garden alone could be a full time job for most normal human beings.
We spent the evenings reading and talking books, because in addition to everything else she does, my friend is a voracious reader. Without distractions, aside from those mentioned above, I managed to get through all 348 pages of On Thin Ice by Jamie Bastedo, a book unlike most teen fiction currently on the market. Polar bear dreams, shaman and ice figure largely in this northern story that is part new age hip, part teenage cynical, part ecological cautionary tale, and part ancient wisdom. I loved it.
The main character, Ashley, is like a younger northern version of Carlos Castaneda without drugs. Unlike Castaneda though, she doesn’t actually set out to find her spiritual self, she is instead stalked by it. One half Inuit, Ashley has spent her life in the north, but when her parents move back to her father’s tiny village to look after her aging great uncle, Ashley’s inner and outer world seethe with fearsome blizzards, ice storms, and floods. Whatever the weather, polar bears are on the move. When one of Ashley’s classmates turns up dead and half chewed, her dream world and her everyday life seem to be melting into one. Do dreams or nightmares come true? Is the giant polar bear that stalks her dreams real?
For a newcomer, Bastedo handles the bones of the novel like a pro. The voice in Ashley’s dream journal is pure inner world. The logical and bizarre intertwine without ever colliding while the shaman bear voice is carried through separate chapters. Ashley’s waking voice is jarringly teen contemporary, and yet straddles new and ancient Inuit worlds perfectly.
This is a stunning book which has as much to say to teens as it does to those of us who are over 50—not to mention any names... A companion Teacher’s Guide can be found on-line at www.onthinice.ca