Recommended for ages 13 years upwards.
Thin Ice is a Swedish novel, that has been translated into English among other languages. Ireland Children’s Laureate, Siobhán Parkinson, read the German version and loved it so much that she bought the rights to publish an English-language version.
Mik lives in a town called Solna, near Stockholm, with his alcoholic father and older brother Tony. His Mom died some years before and Mik’s seems a bit of a loner. He worships his older brother Tony, who is constantly in trouble with the law. The youngster’s life changes when social services intervene and Mik is sent to live with his aunty Lena in a rural and remote part of Northern Sweden.
Lena lives in a small, sleepy village near a big lake called Selet. It’s a huge change for Mik, not least because of the move from a busy town to a quieter community. The change comes in the form of kindness, stability and love. Engström creates some memorable characters including a feisty young schoolgirl named Pi and the elderly (and slightly crazy) brothers Bertil and Bengt, the latter of whom teaches Mik how to fish. Along with Lena, they give Mik the time and attention he has never received before and he blossoms in this new life.
The unfamiliar –at least to this Irish reader– landscape of frozen lake, dense forests and wooden homes blanketed in snow and dominated by the freezing temperatures makes for an interesting change of scene.
I was hooked by the surprising amount of humour in the story; the kids at Mik’s new school are high-spirited and refreshingly, if at times brutally, honest. Combined with Mik’s independent attitude and plucky nature it makes for a funny read, despite the grim circumstances of Mik’s family life.