Ellen Obed's lovely new book is a series of vignettes in ode to her family's winter traditions in rural Maine. The first ice appears in pail left in a barn. It then spreads to the fields and streams, enticing the children to put on their skates. The real pleasure comes with the garden ice. In the coldest of winter, the narrator's family allows their summer garden to freeze over and become Bryan Gardens, an outdoor skating rink for the family and their friends. Each night their father sprays down the ice so that young figure skaters and hockey players can skate on the rink every day after school. Before Bryan Gardens thaws, the skaters put on an ice show that is enjoyed by the community. Even as spring approaches and the ice disappears, the children continue to dream of ice as they wait for the next freeze.
Twelve Kinds of Ice is beautifully written and reads very quickly; I finished it in less than twenty minutes. Though I can understand why this quiet novel has earned rave reviews, it does not do much for me. I come from the South where we don't ice skate outdoors. I can appreciate though how this book celebrates family traditions. While I do not think many students in my community would read this book on their own or even with my recommendation, I could see reading it aloud in a 4th through 6th grade classroom. It could be used as a prompt for having students to write about their own traditions.