Thursday, August 01, 2013

Environmental Book Club

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed with illustrations by Barbara McClintock is another book that provides readers with an experience, in this case, the experience of taking part in something that can only occur seasonally.

The narrator belongs to a skating family, one that skates on natural ice. They are attuned to the way ice changes as winter progresses, because it means either different kinds of skating for them ("stream ice" sounds fantastic to me) or brings them closer and closer to the big event, making their own ice rink and skating on it. And then, of course, the ice changes some more as the winter season moves along and the world comes closer to spring.

This is a totally different kind of skating life than the one we hear about every four years when the Winter Olympics come around and for a few weeks TV viewers go, "Oh. Skating. People do that?" Those types of skaters work year around on a static type of ice, something that is always there for them, assuming they can pay their fees. Humans have overcome the cycle of nature in order to provide a seasonal activity all year round.

Bryan Obed is writing about skaters who only skate when the environment they live in offers them ice. Skating makes them part of their natural environment.

I was drawn to this book because I'd read years ago that ice is some kind of recurring motif in Canadian literature. I don't know if that's actually the case, but I like the idea of an entire culture being so involved with its setting. Also, my son and I tried to build an ice rink in our backyard, also years ago. Central Connecticut is far south of Maine, where Twelve Kinds of Ice takes place, so we had that working against us to begin with. Then, after several days of effort, another family member suggested that we probably shouldn't have tried to build an ice rink over the septic tank. He was there every day. He couldn't have mentioned this before we got started?

I wonder how many children and parents will read Twelve Kinds of Ice and try for a backyard rink, too?

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