Marv Jackson’s life changes forever when he survives a bear attack as a small child. He and this extraordinary tale become a legend that is retold and reshaped by members of his close-knit community. However they are reluctant to accept his recollection, that on this fateful night he was drawn to a baby’s cry, an abandoned child left on the ice. As he grows up his scar is not the only thing that is a constant reminder of the night and he wonders what has happened to the child. A chance encounter with a mysterious girl and her ice skating polar bear brings this memory back to the surface, taking them both on an incredible journey that they’ll never forget. Exquisite storytelling meets sublime characterisation in this stunning tale from Cerrie Burnell. I was completely entranced by the Isle of Bears, a place in the deep frozen north, where the lives of bears and the community are inextricably bound together. The sense of community, friendship and the way those who are alone and vulnerable can find family in the most unexpected of places is totally joyful. It completely won over my heart with it’s beautifully, atmospheric and magical prose. Effortlessly diverse and incredibly thoughtful this is an absolute gem of a read.
It seemed entirely fitting that Cerrie launched this beautiful book at Somerset House ice rink, where she told us about her love of skating. Today on the blog she shares her thoughts with us…
Why I love to skate – Cerrie Burnell
There is a swift sweeping joy that comes from gliding across the ice- with out falling- face tilted up toward the sky, surrounded by other giddy skaters caught up in their own rushing excitement. You’re swept along on a wave of adrenaline, a cloud of ice air and feeling of childlike wonderment. Though it wasn’t quite like this at the beginning.
The first time I ventured on the ice as an adult was wrought with agony and woe. We were a squashed in a little out door pop up rink near the London eye, in a melee of other novices. My daughter age five, clung to me, screamed at me and all but dragged me down to a merciless frozen hell.
And yet through out the arguing and unsteady terror of falling, there were tiny moments of utter hilarious delight.
The next time a few years later we found ourselves almost alone in the middle of the afternoon on a surprise (read forgotten) inset day. It was a grey afternoon steeped in sea-light and we had the little practice rink at the Brighton Pavilion almost entirely to ourselves. As we moved around the small starry square, twilight gathering above us – her clutching a plastic savour in the form of a penguin, me amazed I hadn’t fallen, we let go of the boards and began – very gradually – to glide, and then a soft magic unfurled and a complete feeling of freedom took hold of us. We could not stop smiling.
We weren’t graceful or dazzling or daring, but we were upright and suddenly it felt like I was flying. I found myself letting everything else go. You can’t think about submitting your tax return, or wonder if you remembered the cheese for the packed lunch tomorrow, or consider anything more pressing when you’re balanced on a whisper thin blade that’s sharp enough to harm you. You have to give yourself over to the ice. Its a moment in time where existing is enough.
So we kept going, kept falling, kept clambering up, kept learning. Learning to overcome our doubt, learning to lace up our skates (that’s a whole other trilogy in itself) learning to love the shivering bone cold of indoor rinks. Through house moves, career changes, different schools, scorching summer days and deep winter nights we kept skating, and the quiet joy we felt was a little frosty miracle.
What astonished me about the rink was the community, the automatic welcome. A place where every one is expected to join in, all you have to do is be brave enough to step onto the ice. There are inclusive Ice hockey clubs, disabled skate sessions, people competing who didn’t find skating until they retired in their sixties. You can be any age, of any background, gender or faith, the ice is there for you.
Of course if you’re gifted or you want to excel then you can train with a coach – and that’s a much harder discipline. Watching the young figure skaters train takes my breath away, sometimes moves me unexpectedly to tears at the sheer fearless grace of them as they fly over the ice.
But if – like us – you just want to do something wonderful. Something gloriously fun. Something that frees you from all other ties, just for a rare few moments, you should give it a try. Skating by twilight on outdoor rink – is to me like magic.
Thanks to Cerrie for this lovely guest post and for encouraging me to get back on the ice after breaking my arm 30 years ago!
Cerrie Burnell is an actress, singer, playwright, children’s author, and television presenter, with a high profile on TV, in children’s publishing, and across social media. Her positive and engaging attitude across all platforms is incredibly inspiring for readers young and old. Her middle grade novel The Ice Bear Miracle, published by OUP, is available now for readers age 9+ .
Thank you to Liz and OUP for inviting me to the launch of ‘The Ice Bear Miracle,’ and for my gifted copy of this extraordinary book.