Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Twelve Kinds of Ice' among Cool New Reads for Kids

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Twelve Kinds of Ice' among Cool New Reads for Kids

Article excerpt

Three new books offer some great reading for youngsters:

* Author Ellen Bryan Obed offers a joyful ode to winter -- especially the thrill of ice skating -- in "Twelve Kinds of Ice" (Houghton Mifflin, $16.99, ages 7-12). Written in an elegant yet accessible style and featuring exquisite drawings by artist Barbara McClintock, the 64-page "Twelve Kinds of Ice" is a tiny gem of a book.

Growing up on a six-acre farm in Waterville, Maine, Ms. Obed had plenty of time to observe the seasons as a child. For her family, winter was a particularly special time, a time when they could don their skates, either for figure skating or for hockey. Each year, the family created its own backyard ice rink, complete with a shed that served as a locker room and "bleachers" -- wood timbers perched on piles of snow -- for the annual ice skating show.

But ice is not a singular thing, a fact that Ms. Obed learned in childhood and which she shares with readers in the 20 short chapters of "Twelve Kinds of Ice." For example, she writes that the "first ice came on the sheep pails in the barn -- a skin of ice so thin that it broke when we touched it."

Next comes the thicker "second ice. ... We would pick it out of the pails like panes of glass. ... Then we would drop it on the hard ground to watch it splinter into a hundred pieces."

As the cold weather began to take hold, the ice got harder, and that meant the start of winter fun for Ms. Obed and her family and friends. They slid on "field ice" and skated on "stream ice." But all of that was merely a prelude to the time when it finally was cold enough for her family to create its own "garden ice," the backyard rink that would be the focus of winterlong spills and chills.

When the spring thaw finally set in each year, it shut down the skating season but didn't really end the ice season. As Ms. Obed writes, there was always "dream ice" that "came in our sleep ... [and] never melted."

Ms. Obed perfectly captures the intimate knowledge that children gain when they can spend time experiencing the outdoors. Young readers will particularly enjoy the way she and her friends truly reveled being outdoors on the ice, as they "sped to silver speeds at which lungs and legs, clouds and sun, wind and cold, raced together."

* Laura Amy Schlitz presents an intricate fantasy shot through with love and loss in "Splendors and Glooms" (Candlewick Press, $17.99, ages 9-12).

Ms. Schlitz won the 2008 Newbery Medal -- given annually by the American Library Association to the best written children's book -- for "Good Masters, Sweet Ladies," a witty, carefully researched set of portraits from a medieval village.

In "Splendors and Glooms," she moves forward to the Victorian era, telling a tale focused on villainous puppeteer Grisini, his rival -- a witch named Cassandra -- and the three children who are caught in their web of hatred and powerful magic. …

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