Friday, June 29, 2018

Ice Palace by Robert Swindells illustrated by June Jackson

Young children often ask for 'scary' stories in our library.  Ice Palace is a book you could recommend.  It reads like a folktale, filled with moments of extreme tension, it is an example of perfect storytelling and it is only 90 pages.  I am so pleased I found this book on my recent visit to UK where I found one of the best children's bookshops ever! The Norfolk Children's Book Centre.

Starjik comes to each village in the dead of night and takes a child. When his brother is taken Ivan sets off to find him. The journey is freezing cold and extremely dangerous.

Robert Swindells had me hooked from the first page:

"Turn your face to the east wind, and if you could see forever you would see Ivan's land. It is a land where summer is short and  pale like a celadine; winter is long and cold as an icicle."

Celadine: This is a yellow flower - see below.

As in all good folktales, Ivan faces three challenges. He is attacked by wolves, he almost falls down an crevasse and Starjik lures him with the illusion of a happy village where children are dancing and singing. Each time he is rescued at the very last minute.

"The wolf-cries drew nearer. He looked back. Dim shapes moved in the dark beneath the trees ... A few seconds more and they would be upon him."

Ivan eventually meets an old woman who has been saving his tears. She tells Ivan to use these against Starjik. Ivan reaches the cave palace and confronts the monster Starjik. In a scene with echoes of Narnia, he finds all the children captured in ice.

"Ivan clapped a hand to his mouth, stifling a cry. He was looking at a great block of ice. It was higher than three houses and as long as the cavern. The ice was clear as a crystal pool and inside he saw children. Many children, trapped in the solid ice. ... There were frozen smiles and frozen frowns, and there, right at the front, gazing out from his icy prison, was Ivan's brother."

Ice Palace is not a new book. It was first published in 1977 and my Puffin edition is from 1992 but the good news it you can still find this book. Here is a review by an eight year old published in The Guardian.  TES also have teaching notes.

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