This was rare for me. I was so sucked into the nostalgia of this book, that I felt like I had to read some of the reviews on goodreads before writing my own. Usually I don't check in like that before writing, because I like to write based on my aesthetic response. The best thing I found by reading the reviews was the category term 'memoir'. But Lu Benke's use of the term 'mood book' also seems applicable--I was focused clearly on one topic, and the characters, events, and details around this topic all worked to give me a 'feel' for what ice means to some people. You can tell the editors in charge of this book thought they had an award winner--they spared no expense in special size of book, design, cover, etc.
Overall, I would categorize this book as a genre-breaker. It clearly has informational elements to it, giving a culturally embedded informational look at ice--from the point of view of a Northeastern US family, but easily applicable to the culture in many provinces in Canada or the northern Midwest US. It clearly has some autobiographical elements in it, but the story is fictionalized and exaggerated (not by grand hyperbole, but by concentration and focus). Lu says it's categorized solidly in fiction on WorldCat. The book also has the same kind of curious seasonal structure we might remember from Sendak's Chicken Soup, with Rice
. One of my favorite details, however, was how Obed so intentionally avoided using months and days in the earliest parts of the book. This gave me the feel that the ice was truly the marker of time, not the calendar. Then as the ice disappeared, the calendar came back into prominence.
McClintock's illustrations are charming as all get out. Pauline Baynes is who immediately came to mind, but Robert McCloskey was close behind (actually, after discussing it with Nancy, McCloskey isn't quite right--these illustrations have a much more imaginative vein rather than the realism of McCloskey). The double-page spreads are wonders of the crisp drawing style that was such a hallmark of the magazine illustrations and commercial art of the 1920s-1960s. I enjoy looking at that kind of skilled drawing.
All that said, this book is totally white bread. And the appeal to nostalgia probably isn't the best recommendation for a book to get top honors, even if the awards are only annual. What this book does in structure is SO similar to what I experienced while reading Jimmy the Greatest!
And Jimmy did so much more to knock me into a different world (making the strange familiar and the familiar strange) that I think it's far superior. I enjoyed both, and found myself asking my family and friends to look at both.