fiction favorites…Twelve Kinds of Ice

twelve kinds of ice cover imageTwelve Kinds of Ice, by Ellen Bryan Obed, illustrations by Barbara McClintock

We sped to silver speeds at which lungs and legs, clouds and sun, wind and cold, raced together.  Our blades spit out silver.  Our lungs breathed out silver.  Our minds burst with silver while the winter sun danced silver down our bending backs.

If ice is a familiar friend —  brittle ice in crisp, thin sheets on morning puddles, dense bedrock ice, black beneath your boots on a frozen lake, longed-for ice finally solid enough for a skating party — then this is the book for you!

If ice has not been a part of your world, it’s still the book for you, because  Twelve Kinds of Ice, newly published in the past month, will make you fall in love with it twelve kinds of ice illustration2 barbara mcclintockfor the first time!

As we who grew up in the North know, there are many different kinds of ice, and here Ellen Bryan Obed marvelously ambles through the whole winter’s worth, describing and defining ice in her keen, artful, affectionate narrative.  Follow the Bryan family through their anticipation of ice firm enough to skate on, to the immensely happy times they shared shoveling, flooding rinks, twirling, playing hockey, skating with friends, skating in moonlight, hosting skating parties and neighborhood ice shows.   The sheer frosty joy of outdoor skating shines forth like a full moon on a winter’s night.  For me, it brought back a hundred memories of skates and wooly socks, frozen ponds and the neighbor’s garden rink, warming houses steaming with the mix of

Here I am, on the left, skating, in about 1968, northern Minnesota.

Here I am, on the left, skating, in about 1968, northern Minnesota.

melting snow and stoked woodstove, the sharp crack of hockey pucks ricocheting against boards, and my son anxiously watching the ice on the pond towards the day when it would stand up to an improvised net and a game of hockey with friends.

It’s a brief book — just 60 small pages.  Slight of word, with each one perfectly chosen, like a chocolate box with no duds!  Every sentence is to be savored!  This is uncommonly beautiful writing.  Besides that, if this book doesn’t compel you to get outdoors and create your own fun, I don’t know what will!

Barbara McClintock has illustrated it, and you can tell right from the perfect blush of chilly pinkness in the sky on the cover that she has got it exactly right.  Her fabulous pen and ink drawings wonderfully capture the glad, outdoor fun had by these folks from Maine.   I love the lakes edged with snow-flocked trees, the joy and camaraderie of the skaters.  Her quiet pictures set amid a lot of white space, and the black-and-white color of the entire book, communicate an elegant simplicity, a retro goodness, a non-flashy felicity that I adore.

This is definitely one of my favorite new books from 2012.  A cozy read for ages 7 and up, but please don’t skip over it just because you’re a grown-up!  You’ll love it, too.

Here’s the Amazon link. Twelve Kinds of Ice