Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Chilly Jeweled Treasures

In the midst of winter, snow, wind, and cold can work to create breathtaking artwork.  Last year as I was wandering from beach to beach along Lake Michigan and noting the work of this trio, another admirer asked if I had seen the blue ice at a nearby beach.  I had not.

I believed most of the rare blue ice was to be found along the Lake Michigan shoreline closer to the Mackinac Bridge, but this blue ice was along the shore at the west end of Lake Charlevoix. (Blue ice forms when a combination of clear water, dense ice, and sunlight work together.)  As I pulled into the vacant parking lot and looked across the snow at the lake, I gasped.  Fortunately, the sun was shining and it heightened this spectacular natural wonder.  

One of my favorite authors was also intrigued by the formation of ice when observing the pictures taken by a friend.  When this woman's curiosity is awakened, we can expect an outstanding title to follow.   Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice (Millbrook Press, October 4, 2022) written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Jieting Chen is a collection of informative original verses enhanced by equally informative and transformative images.  You might want to bundle up as you step into the pages of this brisk book.

Ice Is Born
From freezing water,
Bonds settle into order.

Shapes unfold
Temperature and vapor mold.

Lattice facets
Crystals form habits.

This first of eleven poems introduces us to the creation of ice.  We are also privy to familiar and, perhaps, unfamiliar words used in the context of ice.  It is beginning, too.

The next poem talks about frost before we read about how water freezes on wood, plants, and in soil to fashion hair, flowers, and spikes.  We are intrigued by the range of movements ice makes.  We listen as its sounds fill the frigid air.

Have you ever heard of the word frazil?  This is another beginning on the surface of water, salt and freshwater places.  Ice shapes are given names like hummock and bummock.  If you think the word floe acts alone, you'll be amazed at learning about its partners.

When certain animals are born it is called calving, but this word is used, too, when ice breaks from a larger portion of ice.  Names are also assigned to ice as it grows older, whether it melts or survives melting.  Ice's life finishes and starts with the rising and falling of temperatures.  It is a circle to be savored.

That we are factually informed through poetry is evidence of the talent of author Maria Gianferrari.  She starts and finishes the text with the same three words.  In between those three words, short phrases, rhyming words, alliteration, carefully chosen descriptive adjectives and verbs, and terms relative to ice wrap us in a world of water, wind, and bitter temperatures.  Maria Gianferrari takes us on a journey from the smallest forms of ice to towering giants and landscapes farther than our eyes can see.  Here is a passage.  It is the first part of the poem Ice Plays.

Icicles shine,
Drip and drop.

Ice spikes launch,
Stick and prick.

Cat ice whorls
Swirl and twirl.

Brinicles sink,
Plume and bloom.

Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case, readers are treated to a single image spanning left to right over the spine.  The color palette definitely depicts a frozen atmosphere.  To the far left of the spine is a large glacier and sheets of ice.  The sheets of ice reach like fingers into the icy blue water.  This takes our eyes to the right side with the clever display of title text shaped like an iceberg.  

These images by artist Jieting Chen

were created with Photoshop.

On the title page a small figure dressed in red stands on a snowy piece of land jutting into the turquoise water.  Rising above the water are enormous mountains of ice.  With a page turn labeled forms of ice,  geometrically framed, stretch from the verso page to the first poem.  

Each page turn is a beautiful surprise.  Jieting Chen varies her perspectives, sometimes within the same illustration.  We might be close to the kind of ice forms featured, or given a wider, more vast viewpoint.  Sometimes to indicate the size of the ice forms, a person or water vessel is placed within the visual.

Smaller labeled pictures are shown in a column off to one side of two pages, or they might be the main highlight as in the poem, Sea Ice Sprouts.  Light and shadow indicate the time of day.  Added details portray sound and movement.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is as if we are standing in an open window on the second floor of a building.  The window opens like a French door.  The panes on the left and right sides are etched with frosty designs.  The tree branches are spiked with delicate spines of ice.  Below in the snow, two children play.  Their forms cast shadows on the snow.  Are they starting to make a snowman or gathering snowballs for a toss and catch?

From the first page to the last page, Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice written by Maria Gianferrari with artwork by Jieting Chen is captivating.  There is extensive back matter.  The first page is titled Ice Is Nice!  This gives us some basic information.  The next page is dedicated to Freshwater Ice Formations.  Here terminology is thoroughly explained.  This is followed by two pages with words defined relative to Sea Ice and Ice on Land.  There is a short section titled Time to Experiment:  Make Ice Spikes!  At the close under Further Information is a list of books, websites and online articles, photos and videos and sounds of sea and lake ice.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.  Use this title as an informational read aloud or as an introductory title for a unit on ice, winter or cold climates.

To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Jieting Chen and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  At Maria Gianferrari's website she has an activities and resources page for her books.  There are some great ideas for this title.  Maria Gianferrari has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Jieting Chen has an account on Instagram.  This book is featured at author Tara Lazar's site, Writing For Kids (While Raising Them) and at Maria Marshall's site.  At the publisher's website, you can read an excerpt and view interior images.

Maria Gianferrari thinks ice is nice.  After seeing editor Carol Hinz's feathery frost photos on Instagram, she was inspired to find out more.  During her research, Maria was amazed by all the diverse kinds of ice that exist, and this book was born.  Her favorite form is pancake ice.  Maria lives in Massachusetts with her family, where winters usually bring ice and snow. 

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