Thursday, January 24, 2013

Twelve Kinds of Ice

This is the kind of book that sends librarians over the moon. The precise, poetic language, the creation of an evocative setting, the charmingly detailed black and white illustrations, all work their magic as readers sink into one family's celebration of winter and its number one glory, ice.

The book is composed of a series of vignettes. From the very first ice "that came on the sheep pails in the barn--a skim of ice so thin that it broke when we touched it" to the final "dream ice that came in our sleep," ice serves one primary purpose, to create a surface firm enough for the family and their friends to skate on. And skate they do. On fields, streams, ponds, and their own homemade skating rink, they twirl and dart and glide.

Based on the Obed's memories of growing up on a six-acre farm in Maine, the book has an old-fashioned quality to it, one that McClintock's illustrations reinforce, as do the figure-skating girls and hockey-playing boys. Twelve Kinds of Ice appears on many folks' best-of-the-year lists and there are whispers that it might be nominated for a Newbery. While I can clearly see its many charms, I haven't quite fallen under the book's spell. It's just too quiet for me. I kept waiting for a nasty spill on the ice to happen. I know, I know, but that's me. Other, less bloodthirsty readers should curl up beside a fire and read this low-key yet ultimately appealing book.

Twelve Kinds of Ice
by Ellen Bryan Obed
illustrations by Barbara McClintock
Houghton Mifflin, 64 pages
Published: 2012


  1. that looks great, can't wait to hunt it down... hmm, maybe when it isn't 5 degrees out though!

  2. I so enjoyed this book. Barbara McClintock's illustrations always transport me to that nebulous nostalgic place that we all have in our imaginations, but never actually existed in the real world!