Author: Laurence Yep
Illustrator: Robert Papp
Mia St. Clair is part of an ice-skating family: her three older brother play hockey, she figure skates, they're all hockey fans, and all six members of the family work to afford lessons. Though only ten, she does chores at the rink like emptying trash cans and helping sew recital costumes in exchange for ice time. Mia's just gotten a new coach, Coach Schubert, a former Olympian. She's more encouraging than the previous coach, and has a way of making Mia want to impress her. Mia's best friend Anya, also on the figure skating team, also likes her. Coach Schubert's techniques even give Mia some ideas when she fills in for someone else and teaches a beginner class. Another girl at the rink, Vanessa, doesn't think much of Coach Schubert because of a famous slip-up she made a decade and a half ago, but Vanessa's a stuck-up snob who thinks the world revolves around her--what does she know?
Because Mia is the only one in the family who's into figure skating rather than hockey (although she still thinks it's fun, it's not her passion), she gets a lot of flack from her brothers. Her parents both work more than one job, and are usually too worn out to deal with the spats. One night the family plays an impromptu game of indoor hockey, and Mia nearly gets a concussion when one of her brothers runs into her. Suddenly everyone's treating her with kid gloves, and she feels even more left out--when her brothers were teasing her about figure skating, at least she was still being treated the same way they treated each other.
Fortunately, the blow to the head only puts Mia out of commission for the rest of that day. She's back to skating soon, in time for Coach Schubert to tell her that she's picked Mia to perform a solo at the upcoming skating recital. Mia's nervous--what if she screws up in front of everyone? One day after practice, Mia overhears Vanessa complaining to another skater about Mia being the coach's pet, and how her father is furious that Vanessa has to perform with the beginner class--or "brats" as she says--in the background. Vanessa says once Mia fails, it'll be another item on the list of reasons to get Coach Schubert fired. Mia surprises Vanessa and herself by speaking up, defending the beginners and putting Vanessa in her place (thank to her brothers, Mia is no shrinking violet but Vanessa is intimidating and Mia was eavesdropping). Mia encourages the beginning skaters, nervous about performing with Vanessa, and Coach Schubert gives Mia her own encouragement. Christmas arrives shortly before the recital, and Mia gets an MP3 player from everyone--they all chipped instead of each making their own gift for her. Her solo routine music is already loaded on it, so she can practice it on the frozen pond near the house.
The night of the recital, things start out well. Anya performs her part beautifully The beginners do okay, but then some of the fancy beading on Vanessa's custom outfit comes loose, causing several skaters, including Vanessa herself, to fall. Unable to get up, she crawls off the ice, humiliated. Graciously, Mia helps her and reminds her about Coach Schubert's famous Olympic fall: she got back up and kept competing, and can still hold her head high today. A rink worker cleans the ice and the show continues. Soon it's Mia's turn. She's able to focus for her whole routine, and does it almost perfectly, just a few wobbles here and there. Her brothers can finally see why she loves figure skating--and her coach says she'll need to work on those wobbles before Regionals, because she's competing there!
Real Girls, Real Letters
Several girls have written to American Girl asking advice. "Frustrated Figure Skater" is vexed by a teammate who's always better than her, no matter how hard she tries, and is advised to focus on improving on her own, not compared to other people. "Kicking But Not Scoring" is discouraged that her soccer coach mother doesn't say anything positive to her during games or practices, and is advised to talk with her mom, who is probably trying too hard not to play favorites. "Talented Out" gets the suggestion to find her talent by exploring what she already loves to do and seeing what can be taken further. "Softball Nerves" is advised to talk to her coach about tips for relaxing when the pressure's on so she doesn't crack under it, and "Too Nervous" gets similar advice for her flute recitals and skating competitions. Emily is worried that since she's only just starting figure skating at the age of thirteen, she's too old to really do it, but is reassured that doing something she loves is never a waster of time, whether she goes pro or not.
Dedicated to Cory and LeeLabov, "who are stars in their own right."
The St. Clairs live in upstate New York. Mia's older brothers are Perry (16), Rene who goes by Skip (14), and Rick (12).
A large theme in Mia's book is getting out from under her older brothers' shadows, particularly in sports. I actually had a bit of that with my older brother: he was a starter on the Varisty soccer team for five years (tiny school=eighth-graders can play Varsity) and got the first RBI for our school's Varsity baseball team. I ended up not so great at soccer--I got to be on the first JV team we fielded after two years of playing Varsity. But I switched to cross country later and did really well there, and competed at state in track and field, a level he never got to, and still have some school records. But what was really nice was getting to be just me rather than someone's sister. He's great, but it was nice to be my own person.
If you're hit in the head and you lose consciousness, you really should get seen by a doctor.