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Ice Palace

Ice Palace

by Ted Rand (Illustrator), Deborah Blumenthal

Every year a glittering palace made from blocks of ice rises several stories above the wintry landscape of Saranac Lake, New York. The workers who build the palace, which is the centerpiece of the annual winter carnival, come from the village and from a nearby prison, Camp Gabriels. Inspired by this real-life event and told in the voice of a young girl who lives


Every year a glittering palace made from blocks of ice rises several stories above the wintry landscape of Saranac Lake, New York. The workers who build the palace, which is the centerpiece of the annual winter carnival, come from the village and from a nearby prison, Camp Gabriels. Inspired by this real-life event and told in the voice of a young girl who lives nearby, the account of the preparation and creation of the palace and of the festive days that follow gains special poignancy from the fact that the narrator’s uncle is among the prisoners on the construction crew. Ted Rand’s vibrant watercolors join Deborah Blumenthal’s sensitively written text in a unique tribute to a century-old tradition and the community spirit that warms winter’s iciest days. Author’s note.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"an offbeat winter story with a positive message on community-building that should have considerable appeal among kids approaching snowsuit season." THE BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"lyrical text...sparkling watercolors... convey the cold, the excitement, and the community-spirit...Even kids from warm climates will be intrigued." BOOKLIST Booklist, ALA

"wondrous...spectacle...hope, trust, and community...Blumenthal has constructed a deeply quieting and reflective story" KIRKUS REVIEWS Kirkus Reviews

"a fascinating story...imagistic language...Rand mirrors the text's best part - its celebratory winter milieu - creating wonderously frosty scenes" PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
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 caf 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.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This story describes the process of planning the annual Winter Carnival held in the village of Saranac Lake, New York. Each year, a work crew comprised of local citizens and inmates from the nearby correctional institute come together to carve huge blocks of ice out of the lake to create an ice palace that sets the stage for the games, races, and other activities that define the event. Told from the perspective of a young girl whose uncle is a prison inmate who helps in the building process, the story describes not only the necessary work that goes into the planning of the carnival but the impact on those involved as well. As the prisoners are released each day to work on the palace, the narrator is certain that they learn to appreciate life in a way that helps them feel better about who they are despite their current condition. Uncle Mike, she is sure, comes away feeling a sense of pride, and the community members learn to appreciate the prisoners as men who can contribute meaningfully to the creation of a better life for all. The illustrations (watercolor and acrylic paint) capture the warmth of the event despite the cold temperatures they portray. The premise is a bit unusual, and the author's attempts to address several issues of political correctness (from the reform of prison inmates to global warming) feel overly didactic at times. Interesting but not likely to engage many readers. 2003, Clarion Books, Ages 7 to 10.
—Wendy Glenn
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-A girl describes the annual winter carnival in Saranac Lake, NY. Its centerpiece is an enormous ice palace, constructed in recent years not only by villagers, but also by crews from Camp Gabriels, a nearby minimum-security correctional facility. Each day, the 10-year-old and her father watch the building progress, block by block, with slush used as mortar. When the opening day finally arrives, it is a whirlwind of parades, games, races, and the crowning of a king and queen, culminating in spectacular fireworks. As the book ends, winter fades into spring, the ice palace melts away, and the child is left thinking about her Uncle Mike, one of the prisoners who helped construct the castle. He is due to be released and will perhaps participate freely in next year's activities. The text is poetic yet approachable. The description of the prison is straightforward without being alarming; it is "a place that keeps men away from other people for a while because they've broken the law." Rand's watercolor-and-acrylic illustrations capture the icy-blue feel of a small town in winter, with the brush strokes providing texture and layer to the story. Children will be fascinated by this unusual tradition, and the girl's personal relationship to one of the workers draws readers deeper into the tale.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Maryland School for the Deaf, Columbia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
For so wondrous a spectacle, even upon the book's bedrock of hope, trust, and community, Blumenthal has concocted a deeply quieting and reflective story of the Lake Saranac Ice Palace. A young girl tells about the palace, delivering her tale with all the pacing of a plough horse, in the mood of the slow but sure construction. The girl notes that one of the prisoners from a local minimum-security prison working on the palace is her uncle. Though "the partnership between the local community and the prison population means a great deal to both groups," there are few smiles in evidence on either side of the fence (and despite the dazzle of the palace, it's as though Rand has been ordered to keep things somber). Meanwhile, Blumenthal beats the drum of ephemera, reminding readers more than once that "the ice palace . . . gets smaller and smaller and finally melts away." Like prison sentences, by golly-and us, too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.25(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.13(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

The late TED RAND was the esteemed illustrator of many picture books, including Eve Bunting's Secret Place and The Memory String.

Deborah Blumenthal is a health-and-fitness writer living in Houston, Texas. This is her third book for Clarion.

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