An astonishing, poetic picture book, Skating Wild on an Inland Sea, written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Todd Stewart, tells the story of two siblings who wake at dawn to watch the sun move above the horizon. In the stillness of the morning, they hear the “winter song” of Lake Superior – Gichigami in Ojibwe – and what they guess is the wind, or perhaps a wolf. The children bundle up to go skating on the wild ice. On the way to the lake, they witness sea smoke and cross through snow and boreal forest, finding and following winding animal trails made by deer, otter, moose, and mink. From the shore, they admire the frozen water and hear the calls of the raven and blue jay before they’re ready to lace up and skate.
At the end of their journey, we see the children finally gliding on the ice as the lake’s “voice vibrates beneath [their] feet” and “[s]he hums a haunted melody, the song of water.” In addition to showing the cycles of nature, the book beautifully connects the water of Lake Superior to the rest of the earth as the song reaches down and “lives in the heart of a continent.”
Inspiring shivers from the splendour of the cold, the book shines a light on the wonders of winter. Pendziwol’s colour-filled poetry, lauding morning’s “purple light” and the lake’s many faces of “midnight green” and turquoise, pairs well with Stewart’s opulent illustrations that invigorate the imagination with trees and animals you can almost reach out and touch. Throughout the book’s pages, Stewart shows us the full range of morning light, from the first hints of sunrise to the golden hour.
It’s clear Pendziwol’s observations come from a deep place of noticing, as every breath and movement of the water is lyrically described. The author invites the reader to revel in winter, to listen, look, and take in and preserve the nature around them, even if their landscape isn’t as scenic as the sonorous Lake Superior.