Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of interviewing bestselling author, Elizabeth Atkinson. (Check it out here.) After our interview, she even sent me a copy of her newest middle-grade novel, The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball. I am delighted to share my thoughts about this great winter read with you!
The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball tells the humorous, relevant, and heartwarming story of two best friends, Ruby La Rue and Eleanor Bandaranaike as they try to reach their dreams in the small ski town of Paris, New Hampshire. Ruby longs to mingle with the “Outers” – the wealthy out- of-town kids who spend their afternoons on the ski slopes, catch the attention of Paris Middle School’s very own hearththrob JB Knox, and attend the most extravagant event of the year, the Sugar Mountain Snowball. Eleanor, on the other hand, dreams of becoming a fashion designer and creating a haute couture line that can be worn by the Outers. But to do so, she must save enough money to purchase the Pluckarama 1080 Sew-Good & Embroidery Machine.
As Eleanor and Ruby wonder how exactly they can reach these dreams, they come across a psychic named Madame Magnifique. She predicts that each of their deepest dreams will come true within four months. Her words give the girls the confidence to go out and achieve each of their goals. While digging through Ruby’s stepmothers yarn and craft supplies, they come up with the idea of starting their own business called E & R Dream Designs. Eleanor uses her creative, artistic talent to knit mittens and scarves, craft jewelry, design cellphone cases, and more. Ruby goes to various stores in the village to sell their products. The girls decide to split the profits equally among themselves.
While their creations are selling and their business is quickly becoming a success, the two sixth grade girls begin to face new challenges. It becomes more difficult for Eleanor to keep E&R Dream Designs a secret from her strict Sri Lakan parents, who would certainly not approve of this new business, because it might interfere with her special classes, cello lessons and other “braniac activities,” as Ruby likes to call them. And since Ruby’s stepmom and father are always working, she must still take care of her twin brothers while working on their business. And as much time and effort they put into their dreams, not everything always goes exactly as planned. – After saving up all of her hard earned money to take a private skiing lesson, Ruby discovers that skiing is not as easy as it looks. But despite each snow ball that is thrown in their direction, the girls are able to maintain their friendship and become more strong and responsible individuals than ever before.
The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball tackles important topics such as cultural differences, the desire to fit in with a particular social group, healthy eating habits and lifestyles -each told by in the irrepressible, eager voice of Ruby La Rue. From the second she began to tell their story, I was hooked. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters, applaud their bravery, and hope that their efforts resulted in success and happiness for the both of them. The hopefulness that is stored in the hearts of Ruby and Eleanor is both admirable and contagious.
As Eleanor and Ruby work to reach their dreams, they begin to learn new things – about themselves and one another. After Ruby is invited to Eleanor’s home for dinner, she learns that Eleanor’s family- who has emigrated from Sri Lanka- has a different way of doing things. They share different beliefs, values, and ways of life. While many things may be different between the two girls, they realize that certain things are exactly the same. “Finding happiness is the same for everyone – it can only come from the heart.” By the end of the story, the girls have learned quite a few valuable life lessons, and this is one of them.
Crafting a heartwarming tale with relevance and substance, Elizabeth Atkinson’s novel is pure and true. It embraces the idea of believing in yourself, taking chances, and appreciating the people that surround you. While this book is perfect for tween readers, it holds a strong message that pertains to any reader, no matter what your age. So cue the mug of hot cocoa, the warm fire place, your favorite comfy chair, and get to it! Pick up a copy of The Sugar Mountain Snow Ball at your local bookstore or on Amazon.