Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed

Lynn:  Sometimes a book goes right to my heart and takes me right back to my childhood.  Twelve Kinds of Ice (Houghton 2012) is that kind of book.  This is the story of one of the great pleasures of winter and how one family makes that pleasure something truly special.

The First Ice

The first ice came on the sheep pails in the barn – a

skim of ice so thin that it broke when we touched it.

The story follows the children of the Bryan family as the season grows colder and the ice changes.  It tells how they explore and enjoy ice in all its stages from black ice to field ice to skating down the stream ice.  Then comes the day when it is cold enough for Dad to turn the garden ice into…Bryan Gardens – a fabulous backyard skating rink.  The rink is the heart of this family’s – and the whole neighborhood’s- winter and each new section reveals one more beautifully described experience on Dad’s perfect ice.  With simple but evocative writing we are right there from the hockey games to the skating parties and even with that dreaded midwinter thaw.

This lovely book took me right back to my childhood!  We never had the backyard skating rink but we too skated the first puddles in the field, the stream that led to the pond and then finally onto Blackbird Pond.  That surface was bumpy and uneven, we had to clear the snow from it and watch out for the splintery fence on one end but in our minds it was perfect.  Later when we moved to Boston, my sister and I discovered the carefully groomed ice rinks all over the area.   There was one right on our way home from school and we carried our skates to and from school so we could stop and skate with our friends every afternoon.  Those rinks boasted warming huts and some even sold hot chocolate.  It was glorious!

Obed’s exquisite little book celebrates an experience many of us had growing up and made me a little sad.  I wonder how many children have ever had even a taste of this winter pleasure.  Our last winter here in Michigan was warm and slushy, greatly disappointing the focus group who previously spent every possible minute outside playing in the snow.  My husband has helped them each year to construct a glorious snow fort with multiple tunnels in the monster pile the snow-blower created off our driveway.  So far this year we are sadly snow-less again and we may have to experience the pleasures of winter through this little gem of a book – and that last and most special kind of ice – dream ice.

Cindy: I have never been a good ice skater, but I gave it a go every year while my father would ice fish on the lakes near our house. But I married a hockey player and his whole family ice skates, shoveling off a hockey rink surrounded by curving, intersecting paths around its perimeter to keep the figure skaters and hockey players BOTH happy (Obed describes a different way to manage this in her story). Sadly, the Michigan winters have left us ice-less during the Christmas breaks the last three years and I miss watching the 25 members of my husband’s family all out skating.

Lynn is right, this is a charming book that will probably delight the adults who read it as much as the children. Barbara McClintock’s illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the gentle action of the story. I wish we’d blogged this before the holidays as it would make a great gift book…but get it in your hands this winter. For some of us, it may be the only ice we get…book ice. 🙂

Our family had it’s own special “first” that we waited eagerly for: First sweet corn! My dad and I would have the pot of water boiling on the stove before we would even pick the corn and it would be in the pot moments after shucking. Delicious… I’m hoping that Lynn’s concerns are for naught and that family’s find joy in simple shared activities yet today…one’s that aren’t electronic and don’t come packaged as an “app.” Although I was pretty excited this week for the first Big Ten basketball games. 🙂 Go Hoosiers!

And what was your family’s eagerly awaited “first” each year???



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

2 Comments on "Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed"

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  1.' Rebecca Dunn says:

    This was easily one of my favorite reads of 2012! The story alone was delightful and I enjoyed the illustrations so much I wrote about a few of Barbra McClintock’s books for the Nerdy Book Club:

    Cindy– I’m happy to learn you’re a fellow college bball fan. My family also enjoys the first Big Ten basketball games (husband is an MSU grad) and first Big 12 games (I’m a KU grad) Looking forward to future friendly banter this season… Rockchalk Jayhawk! 🙂

  2. Rebecca, thanks for the comments. Lynn is a bball fan too, but she is a Purdue fan. I snuck in an IU plug while she was out of town.–Cindy

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