*Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed

Twelve Kinds of Ice, by Ellen Bryan Obed, illustrated by Barbara McClintock.  Houghton Mifflin, 2012, 64 pages. 

Reading level: Middle Grades, Ages 10-12

Maturity Level: All

Bottom line: This unusual memoir for middle grades celebrates winter in Maine through the progression of 12 stages of ice formation from the thin skim on a pond to glorious skating.

Some memoriIcees are etched in glass, sharp and clear: The first ice came on the sheep pails in the barn—a skim of ice so thin it broke when we touched it.  To this family in semi-rural Maine, it’s a brave, hopeful sign, like the song of a bluebird on a cold March morning.  For soon would come the second and third kinds of ice, each harder and thicker than the last.  Then Field and Stream Ice.  And Black Ice: Water shocked still by the cold before the snow.  They could do some serious skating then; Ellen and her sister racing for miles at silver speeds at which lungs and legs, clouds and sun, wind and cold raced together.  Our blades spat out silver.  Our lungs breathed out silver.  Our minds burst with silver while the winter sun danced silver down our bending backs.  But all that is really a warm-up (so to speak) for Garden Ice—the family skating rink built with loving care at a size that attracts the whole neighborhood.  Dad is the architect, engineer, and after-hours groom, no doubt passing on a family tradition as the boys live for hockey and the girls dream of Olympic figure skating.  The Last Ice, with its bumps and puddles, signals the end of another glowing season.  But Dream Ice, the twelfth kind, comes anytime at all, and

when it did, we could skate anywhere we wanted—down roads, in and out of yards, and over the tops of trees.  We could do any jump we pleased without practicing. Double axles over houses and splits over telephone wires.  Spins on chimney tops and spirals down slanting roofs.  We lifted our skates into the sky to land on the back edges of clouds.  We never fell.  We never got dizzy.  We never got tired.

I grew up where it seldom snows and have only skated twice in my life—an experience that included, safe to say, no double-axles.  And yet I totally get this.  The author’s experience reaches out to readers in Texas as well as Minnesota, revealing beauty where some would see only barrenness and waste.  The language is unmatched and the line-drawing illustrations perfect.  Not to be missed.

Cautions: None

Overall Value: 5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4
  • Artistic value: 5

Categories: Nonfiction, Middle Grades, Picture Books, Starred Review, Gift Books, Read Alouds, Sports, Seasons

girls, nonfiction, autobiography, Reading Level: Middle Grade ages 10-12, Maturity Level: all, gift books, weather, seasons, winter, ice skating, hockey, siblings, Twelve Kinds of Ice, Ellen Bryan Obed

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

1 Comment

  1. Adrianna Espino on December 9, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I read this and loved it; the art work is wonderful also. We bought it for our 10 year old granddaughter for Christmas and hope she likes it.

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