cover image ICE PALACE


Deborah Blumenthal, , illus. by Ted Rand. . Clarion, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-618-15960-4

Since 1897, the villagers of Saranac Lake, N.Y., have celebrated winter with a carnival, the focal point of which is a massive palace made of ice. The Herculean feats of cutting, lifting and artistically stacking 800-pound blocks of ice alone make for a fascinating story, but Blumenthal (The Chocolate-Covered-Cookie Tantrum ) seeks to deepen their impact. Narrated by a girl, the story begins in a café where townspeople "click open ballpoint pens/ and on paper napkins as thin as snowflakes/ sketch out plans." These plans include a palace with a court for snowshoe volleyball, a slippery slide for the Ice Palace Fun Run and more. The construction of the ice castle itself is completed by the area's prison inmates—one of whom is the girl's uncle. With imagistic language ("We see ice being scissored up"), Blumenthal glides smoothly from construction to spring meltdown, but stumbles over the girl's implausible moralizing about the convicts: "Maybe it was something/ about doing a tough job,/ honest work,/ .../ that made them hold themselves a little straighter." Rand (Country Kid, City Kid ) mirrors the text's best part—its celebratory winter milieu—creating wondrously frosty scenes with strategic combinations of watercolor and acrylic. Splatters of white acrylic fly from a handsaw, creating a shivery spray of crushed ice; a cobalt sky explodes with fireworks in hot pink, yellow and blue acrylics, their colors reflected, softly shimmering in the watercolored palace. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)