Life on a Cool Plastic Ice Floe

Ice Floe cover

© 1978 Karyn Follis Cheatham
Remaindered print editions - $10.00



Library Media Examination Center, Kingston, PA , May 1981, Regina B. Petrausky, Librarian

"[In this story] Less than a year lapses as we see the complicated developments in the life of an orphan trying to keep what's left of his family together. The welfare system is difficult to deal with when one is poor.

"The symbolism in the title aptly represents the artificiality of a foster home in an orphan's life. It is there in place of a normal home, yet nothing can replace the atmosphere of one's real home.

"Although somewhat partisan view of the treatment Indians by American bureaucrats, the book rings believably true enough to awaken readers' sympathy for the poor and helpless of this country. Magnetic reading!"

Los Angeles Unified School District, July, 1980

"Orphaned Danny Raynor is a fourteen-year-old Ojibway Indian who is caught between his natural involvement in the militant activities of his people and the desperate personal problems he faces: (1) his parents are dead, (2) his sister faces adoption by white people who want her to have nothing to do with her family, and, (3) his older brother seems too involved in overall Indian affairs to be much help. Based on actual Indian protest movements of the Michigan Indians in the early 1970s, Cheatham has written a moving account of the life-style, philosophy, and condition of American Indians."

Provident Book Finder, 1979

"Although this book is not written from a Christian perspective, I recommend it because it provides an excellent opportunity for a child to learn about the struggles of a minority group, the American Indians. Becoming aware of different kinds of people and different ways of doing things nurtures acceptance and tolerance. For that reason I would classify this as a book which makes for peace. The story describes and encourages action against injustice.

"I found the basic values in this book acceptable, but some readers may object to the drinking, smoking and petting mentioned as the story unfolds. Parents or teachers might want to read this book at the same time as the child and discuss the questionable parts. There is so much of value in the book that I would not want to reject it because of a few questionable passages.

"The story is compelling and the characters are three dimensional. People are painted realistically; the main character, for instance, shows great courage but also has serious flaws. This is a story of deep emotions related to family and identity.

"Darrell Frey, age 12, said, 'I think [this book] is a very good book; it made me want to read on to find out what happened. When one of the characters got mad, I sort of felt mad, too; or when there was tension as to what was going to happen, I felt tense, too.' "

Central North Carolina State University, January, 1979, Margaret B. Jones, School of Library Science

"Focus here is life in the United States which reflects greatly the organization of the American system of justice with all its prescriptions that sometimes cast people into fixed roles.

"[This book] is an intriguing story of an American Indian family where three children become orphans and are no longer considered a family together, but the products of the Social Services Organization in our society. The complete behind-the-scenes details of how the system works is clearly explained. Learning to be independent from adults and understanding the role of family highlights the story.

"The episodes are strengthened as the story unfolds allowing for deep concentration and interesting reading. The story had more depth than first realized, and is well-organized."

Voice of Youth Advocates, December 1978

"Neither the cover nor the title made me want to read this superb book and I alert librarians that you will have to work to overcome these defects, but the effort will be worth it to the young people you introduce to this title. (The fact that the title is symbolically accurate won't help sell it.)

"Danny Raynor is a 14-year-old Ojibway Indian caught in the web of the white man's social service system. Both [of] his parents are dead, and in the opinion of prissy Mrs. Olsen and the welfare office, his grandparents are not suitable guardians for him and his 11-year-old sister, Mary. His older brother Sam is active in Native American Indian politics and is thus termed as a trouble-maker and 'rabble' by the whites.

"The story opens with Danny in a detention home because he was a passenger in a car he didn't know was stolen. The authorities have tried to place him in a number of foster home, but each time he runs away, dreaming only of the day when he and Mary will be able to 'go home.' Mary is trapped with a white family that actively keeps her from contact with her family and works at forcing her to forget her Indian heritage.

"There are powerful and strongly worded statements about the white value structure through the book, but they are not polemics, but evolve logically from the plot. Bill, living with a white family in Ann Arbor is asked by Danny how why he has to cut his hair when the family visits its relatives in Indiana. Bill says, 'It's cool to have an Indian kid up here. You know how this town is—full of do-gooders. So they say wear your hair long. Act Indian.... They sport me around up here to show what great liberals they are, then cut my hair and take me to Indiana to show what a Christian home they're giving me. It's like a big game with them.'

"When Danny asks if he can read Crazy Horse by Mari Sandoz for his English book report, the teacher tells him that if he wants to read about the west, he can read the biography of Kit Carson on the list! At another point, Danny pictures a classmate as growing up to be a social worker--'very straight and proper, and always missing the point.'

"The callous, insensitive treatment of the Indian children depicted in this novel has been well documented in the Children's Rights Report (July-Aug. 1977) and Edwin Cahn's Our Brother's Keeper. It will be the rare reader, young or old, who is not outraged by the persistent valuing of money over the intangible qualities of living with a loving, supportive family. There is no happy ending here, only a faint flicker of hope that Danny and Mary and Sam may be allowed by white society to become a family someday."

Drexel University, December 1978, by R Weber, School of Library Science

"Danny, 16 or so, is an orphan, and is in a detention home when we meet him--bad company. When he gets out, he heads for his grandparents, grieved because Mary, his sister, is in a foster home where the people want to isolate her from her Indian background. The story then begins trailing back and forth among camp-outs and sit-ins. I read about half.

"The characters lack depth and interest, and the plight they're in is never made real enough to engage one's sympathy."

Library Media Examination Center, Northwest Tri-County Unit, PA, November 1978

"Interesting story describing life of Indian teenagers forced to live away from their families. Relates the turmoil involved in a sensitive way. A lot can be learned from this book...and is free from bias, ethnic and religious stereotypes."