Well the story is off to the publishers to see if there is a dance partner. A number of thoughtful changes were made to improve the characters and the story’s warmth. Thanks to Diane Schoemperlen for editing assistance and the grade 5 classes who read and provided valuable feedback.
Here is the synopsis:
Synopsis – The Best Sled Ride Ever
The year is 1962 in rural Ontario. It is two weeks before Christmas and there has been no snow. The kids are antsy. Our story opens with a rural classroom, packed with grade three, four and five students facing a big arithmetic test to start the day. We are drawn back in time to the sights and sounds of children at school. The story characters are introduced: Alex, Jack, Sandy, twins Susie and Jane, the poor kids – Danny and Jessie Brown, Ricky the bully and the narrator.
As the narrator, the author describes what unfolds. The first snowflakes arrive waving at the narrator and energizing the class, to the consternation of Mrs. Bowman the sometimes mean teacher. The kids rush to the sledding hill, but their joys of the first sled rides are defeated by the mushy snow. Conditions slowly improve over the next days, creating that joyous sledding experience. The Browns have only cardboard to the other kids newest snow craft. The improvising Danny improves his cardboard with an ice coating, for a turning of heads.
But there is also bullying of the poor kids. Ricky from grade eight, takes delight in picking on Danny in grade 4 and sister Jessie in grade 3, because they are poor. There is taunting, snow balls and fists. As the sledding improves, Ricky and his buddies increase the harassment of the Browns, and the other sledders. The final confrontation occurs when Jessie and Danny in a monster cardboard case are blocked by the leering Ricky. The other kids, led by the narrator move to support the Browns. Jessie raises her fist at the large Ricky, and the craft is launched right at Ricky.
The Browns win the day with the longest slide. The narrator then sees Jessie in a whole new light, not the poorly clad ragamuffin, but as a strong person and new friend.
This story and the characters are based on actual events of my childhood; the wonder of the first snow and outdoor play, and the fear of bullies. It is also about children overcoming adversity with ingenuity and perseverance. The massive cardboard box becomes the ultimate sled.
This book tugs at two audiences, children 8 to 10 years old who resonate with bullying and adults revisiting the nostalgia of their youth. The young readers will relate to Jessie and Danny, being harassed, beaten and belittled as occurs today. They will too feel the joy of sledding. Being poor and taking abuse for that, may not be top of mind. The adult reader will find themselves back in the classroom of their youth, seeing the faces, smelling the odors, worrying about the big test, and riding their sleds on their favourite hill.
Placed at the start of winter, this story might be considered for the Christmas market. Word count approximately 2500. Editor – Diane Schoemperlen.
“Jessie, her eyes fixed on Ricky, raised her fist, and yelled, “Let’s do it!”
It was the best sled ride ever!