A few days ago I decided I needed to go on a YA novel reading binge (having been reading adult fantasy novels for the past month), but at the last minute I tossed a picture book onto my library reserve list at Janette Rallison’s (janette_r_blog) suggestion: Callie Cat, Ice Skater, by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Anne Kennedy.
Janette’s right–this is a lovely book.
It starts off with a standard children’s book setup: Callie loves loves loves to ice skate, even though her friends don’t get why–at least not until there’s an announcement of a big ice skating contest, which the friends urge our heroine to enter.
Most children’s books of this sort use this as an excuse to deliver a lecture on how winning isn’t everything, or on how it doesn’t matter if you lose so long as you try hard, or on how what matters most is being a good sport and caring about your family and friends.
Callie Cat, Ice Skater does none of these. This isn’t a book about how winning is overrated or doesn’t matter as much as we think.
It’s a book about how winning is entirely beside the point.
The point is that there is joy in doing what you love.
Callie loves to skate, and the rest is only so much noise. Her friends only think her skating matters when there’s a prize attached (yeah, she’ll be ditching those friends come middle school, but that’s another story); her parents deliver the expected platitudes about trying hard and doing your best.
But when Callie loses the contest, none of those messages have much meaning to her. What she needs to do–what she’s always needed to do–is to get back out on the ice, alone, away from all their voices, so that she can wrap herself back up in the joy of doing what she loves.
As Janette commented, this is a notion that has plenty of relevance for adults in the arts, too.
And seeing it conveyed for an audience that instinctively gets joy, for all that the world around them is forever trying to distract them from it, was a wonderful thing, too.
As for that YA reading binge, I pretty much inhaled Laurie Halse Anderson’s Prom in a single gulp (I should untangle the mixed metaphors there, but I won’t), and am now partway through Elizabeth Knox’s first Dreamhunter book, which I’m finding fascinating and compelling and not at all what I expected.