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Cracking the Ice

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Delves into the perilous world of a black teen hockey phenom in 1968, during the highly charged Civil Rights era. Jessie leaves home for New Hampshire, despite misgivings of his parents and girlfriend Rose, to pursue his dreams at an elite, formerly all-white prep school, which he hopes will put him on the path to the Ivy League and NHL. He is realistic about encountering racist fans and opponents at his new school, but finds that he's in the most danger from his own teammates and coach, who clearly despises him based only on the color of his skin. Full of exciting on-ice action and heart-wrenching realism, Cracking the Ice will have readers rooting for Jessie as he fights for what any standout student and athlete deserves.

365 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

David H. Hendrickson

117 books11 followers
David H. Hendrickson’s first novel, Cracking the Ice, was praised by Booklist as “a gripping account of a courageous young man rising above evil.” He has since published five additional novels, including Offside, which has been adopted for high school student required reading.

His short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies, including multiple issues of Fiction River.

Hendrickson has published well over one thousand works of nonfiction ranging from sports journalism to humor and essays. He has been honored with the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award and the Murray Kramer Scarlet Quill Award.

Get a free short story and be notified of new releases by signing up for his mailing list at www.hendricksonwriter.com.

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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
January 20, 2012
Originally posted at: http://aurorareviews.blogspot.com/201...

The best of Cracking the Ice is on the ice - hockey descriptions are in-the-moment, bring-you-there. "Jessie cradles the puck on his stick and took off, skating ahead ten feet, then dropping the puck and cutting to the left..." Hockey is important, not only as the game itself, but how it impacts the dreams and goals of the main character.

Ultimately, this is a personal journey story: goals, and the future are what drive the main character and the plot. He's an admirable young man, ethical and strong, but he lives at a time when those dreams seem one step too far: Jessie is a young black man, in the late 60s.

The Civil Rights movement is in full swing; Martin Luther King is a hero - and those events are important backdrop and in a odd way, parallel some of the action. For Jessie gets an opportunity: he's accepted at a predominantly white prep school with an amazing hockey team. This school might be the ticket to his dreams - but then things start to go wrong. The coach doesn’t want him, even if the principal does. Coarse players go from hazing to threats to worse. The reader will worry and hope that what seems predictable downward turn of events will not be the actual events. The dark side here is dark indeed. It must be admitted that this is an unsettling story. It will stir emotion and anger and leave one wondering how our world could have ever been like this. It is however, sadly believable.

Spoilers would do this story no good at all; it is a worthy, if heartwrenching read, with a fair amount of violence. The best of humanity is explored -- and some of the worst, exposed. It is very readable, written with a clear and powerful voice, and is engaging from beginning to end.

Profile Image for Beth.
223 reviews11 followers
May 30, 2012
I think this book is a perfect read for most everyone. I picked it mostly because of the hockey aspect but it has so much more to it. A black player at a white prep school in New Hampshire during 1968. It has all the biogtry, hatred and courage that one could expect. Jessie's struggle, along with his parents, and the other black athlete are heartrenching and an important (and embarrassing part) of this country's history. There are characters you will outright dislike, those you will love and those, like Jessie, you will have mixed feelings about. The hockey scenes are vivid and action-packed. I highly recommend this book....I think it is especially a good read for middle to high school students. It would be good as an read for an English class or as a supplement to a history lesson!
Profile Image for Tami.
Author 4 books14 followers
May 9, 2012
A riveting story about a fourteen year old black youth, Jessie, who's passion is hockey. Jessie faces many obstacles in this story which takes place in 1968 amidst the civil rights and integration turmoils taking place America. Is he a pawn to be used for his athletic prowess and yet still be up against violent racism? I could not put this book down.

64 reviews
February 18, 2020
I appreciate the overall effort of the book, but it felt super forced to me. There was no subtlety whatsoever, and very very little character development. Somewhat exciting and a good story, but it lacked the depth I was hoping for.
Profile Image for Ari.
951 reviews41 followers
February 19, 2012

I don't have many problems with this book, I didn't love but it was not a waste of my time. In fact, I think it's one of the most interesting books I've read this year. And it touches a subject close to my heart. But first a few quibbles. Jessie has a girlfriend, they are in love. Jessie is fifteen. I thought this would be one of those 'first-love but move on' type stories but it's not which I felt was unrealistic. But then again, it was the 1960s, maybe people fell in love and stayed together at an earlier age. *shrugs* I also did not like the ending because I felt like it made the whole story pointless. I can't explain it without going into spoilers but while it wasn't completely depressing, I did feel like the ending made the whole premise unnecessary. Furthermore, I really really liked the focus on hockey but I was curious as to how Jessie was doing academically. Were his classmates just as racist? His teachers? There are a few dorm incidents but it was never clear to me if Jessie's teachers and classmates were all narrow-minded.

My father loves hockey. My father is Panamanian American so this is not exactly "normal". I am not going to pretend I watch hockey avidly because I don't have time to watch sports everyday but some of my earliest memories of father-daughter time is me lying on my father's stomach as we watch a hockey game, usually the Blackhawks versus whoever. I watched all the Stanley Cup playoff games last year and I would venture a guess that I know a little more about the Blackhawks than most bandwagon fans after our 2010 win. But whenever I hear someone talk about hockey, I think about my father. Especially because we often discuss the few Black players in the NHL and usually, if the BHawks aren't playing, we support whichever team has a Black player (if they both have Black players on their teams, great. Then it's just based on talent). My father has told me that he gets some ribbing from his friends for liking hockey and the few times I mention I like hockey, I get some weird looks (and Black people usually tell me that it's a "white sport" to watch and play). I found it interesting that the author chose to give the book a 1960s setting when this book could have been even more interesting set in the present-day. Cracking the Ice did not, I felt, do a good job of explaining why many Black Americans do not play hockey. It's mostly an economics issue and I would venture a guess that this held true in the 1960s as well as today plus I am sure there are still racial incidents today. I was also curious as to how Jessie became a fan of hockey, that was never explained. If it was because he grew up in the Northeast where hockey is hugely popular, than the book should have explained why other Black teenagers were not interested in hockey. The descriptions of hockey however are delightful. The author clearly has deep-rooted affection for this sport and it shows in the detailed dialogue and descriptions of hockey greats, hockey plays and the euphoric highs one gets playing this often-brutal, skilled, sport.

Cracking the Ice is noteworthy because it is a one-of-a-kind book, it takes the civil rights movement to the hockey arena and it handles the subject nicely. The racism is disgusting and difficult to read about, it's always scary to play with racist teammates but especially in hockey because it is a team sport and violence is involved and so as Jessie points out, you need to know your teammates have your back. If they are too bigoted to protect their own teammate solely because of his skin color, that's a serious problem. I think the author does a great job conveying the determination not just of Jessie but of Black people in general in the 1960s to follow their passions even though many white Americans tried to dissuade them. This story skates by and at times I grew genuinely nervous for Jessie. I also appreciated that the story showed how hockey evolved by explaining the safety measures, helmets were a recent thing which is scary to think about. Jessie and his roommate Stick, the only other Black student at the school, present two examples of how Black youth dealt with the racism they experienced on a daily basis, it was even more fascinating because it was from the perspective of Black athletes. Stick is willing to just coast by academically or even cheat because he knows that he's a great football and basketball player and the benefactors won't let him fail. But that doesn't mean he is accepted by all the students and even Stick realizes that he needs to be more than "the dumb Black athlete" stereotype. I am glad to see an author attempting to break the sheen of ice that covered hockey and its often-racist past for young readers.
November 29, 2013
I had mixed feelings about this book. There were good parts but there was also some not bad but boring parts. To start out when a first got this book I thought it was going to be all about hockey. But when I first started reading it I noticed it was more about the fact that the 14 year old boy, Jessie, was black. The book was more about him trying to get into a good prep school but the he was having a hard time doing that because of his skin color. The schools would allow him to get in but his parents were very tough on teachers or principals in the school about racism. His Dad would say stuff like how many black kids are in your school and other stuff like that. His father would go in to bring up people like Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and even Jackie Robinson. Jessie didn't care, he wanted to be like those people and wanted to make a difference and make a change. His Dad and Mom would finally allow him to go to a school like that after lots of begging. Jessie had a tough time fitting into his new school were there was only one other black kid besides himself. He had a tough time making friends. But when Jessie got onto the school team he made friends in no time. He was a star on his team. He had a special hockey talent that no other kid on the team had. When he got onto the hockey team the book started to get a lot more exciting and interesting to read. The book was more about him playing hockey. The most exciting part of the story to me was at the end of the book. At the end of the book it showed how much he had improved at hockey and the fact that he had made the change that he been one the people that had made difference in skin color. I would recommend this book to other readers like me that like hockey.
Profile Image for Rebecca Dobrinski.
75 reviews4 followers
July 10, 2012
The sad reality has been, with as far as society has come, there were still some hockey fans who threw the rest of us right back to the days when black hockey players suffered verbal and physical abuse simply on the basis of the color of their skin. There is no excuse for the behavior exhibited by some fans towards the Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward during the 2012 playoffs – especially coming from fans of Willie O’Ree’s former team. That behavior made this an appropriate time for all of us to be mindful of some valuable lessons from Dave Hendrickson’s Cracking the Ice.

In Cracking the Ice, Hendrickson wove the tale of young Jessie Stackhouse, a very smart and talented teen hockey player coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement. He chronicled the first year of Stackhouse’s prep school hockey career. From the progressive headmaster’s attempts to seamlessly integrate the New England school and the friends for whom his skin color did not matter to the racist coaches, players, and classmates Stackhouse had to endure, the story was an amalgam of the best and worst behaviors many black athletes experienced during the mid-20th century...

Read the rest of my review at The Hockey Writers.
Profile Image for Karen DelleCava.
Author 1 book13 followers
April 12, 2013
Jessie Stackhouse is a black teen and hockey phenom recruited to a prestigious prep school during the height of the civil rights movement. From the moment Jessie arrives at Springvale Academy, he’s accosted with seething hatred from his classmates, teammates, hockey coach and don’t get me started on the racist locals. Riveted, I kept wondering how he was going to make this impossible and very often lonely situation work. Thank goodness for Stick, Jessie’s quick witted roommate and friend and Frenchie, the one teammate who stands up for Jessie.

My heart ached so badly every time Jessie was brutalized and taunted that I wanted him to quit, go home and just be safe. But this smart, amazing young man perseveres against unsurmountable odds and head held high, proves himself a winner--a survivor. I cheered because no one deserved it more! When the final buzzer sounds, Dave Hendrickson’s Cracking the Ice will have you shouting GOOOAAAALLLL!
Profile Image for Connorf2525.
1 review1 follower
October 29, 2014
This book is a good book. I recommend this book to anyone that likes hockey and want to learn how bad prejudice is. The main character Jessey has to overcome many adversities to play on the hockey team. That all I'm saying so you are going to have to read to find out what happens next.
Profile Image for Alejandra.
414 reviews39 followers
February 16, 2016
Great book about how segregation influenced sports. This book made my insides curl with how powerful it was to me.
Profile Image for Lorrie.
53 reviews2 followers
July 6, 2016
Fabulous presentation of historical racism in the 1960s with vivid imagery and believable characters. I learned about hockey and was surprised several times in the story. Kudos to Dave Hendrickson!
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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