Ice Cycle: An Interview with Author Maria Gianferrari

Pancake ice, floebergs, glaciers, icicles . . . cold temperatures create an astonishing variety of ice forms! Welcome winter with a poetic exploration of ice on land and at sea in Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice by Maria Gianferrari and Jieting Chen.

Please help us in welcoming author Maria Gianferrari to the Lerner blog to share her adventures and research writing this evocative and atmospheric picture book. Don’t forget to download the free activity guide!

What was your inspiration for writing the book?

My inspiration for this book was very specific. Associate Publisher Carol Hinz posted some gorgeous frost photos on Instagram. I was admiring them for their intricate patterns—they looked ferny and feathery and this intrigued me. I began to research crystal formations which eventually led me down the path toward thinking about ice in general. I discovered that there are a multitude of ice formations dependent upon temperature and other environmental conditions, and the book was born.

Why did you choose to write your book in poetic form?

I wanted to celebrate the poetry that is ice visually in words—the way that frost fans and forks and flowers, as well as aurally. There are so many cool names that are like poems in and of themselves—hummocks and bummocks, shuga, shelves, sheets and floes to name a few. And there are also the very fun formation names, like pancake, cat and dragon skin ice that are so evocative. Poetry seemed the best way to celebrate both the visual and the aural aspects of ice. And Jieting does an amazing job of bringing ice to life in her lovely illustrations.

What did you find most surprising about ice?

That there is freshwater ice and sea ice and they occur together in Arctic regions. I hadn’t really thought of that before. For example, icebergs form on land from fresh water, though they float in the sea. They form when pieces of ice break or “calve” from glaciers, ice shelves, or even larger icebergs. I love how vivid the verb of calving is. A floeberg, on the other hand, is formed from sea ice (frozen sea water). Who knew?!

Do you have a favorite kind of ice?

One of the coolest ice formations that I learned about were brinicles. When sea water freezes into sea ice, it releases salt. The brine that it forms is heavier and as it sinks, water around it freezes into an ice spear called a brinicle. When the sinking brinicle hits the sea floor, it forms a web of ice around everything that comes in contact with it. Sadly though, it freezes living things in its path, like sea stars or urchins. It’s sometimes nicknamed the frozen finger of death, and you can see why here:

What do you hope that readers will take away from reading your book?

To deepen their appreciation for  the astounding amount of diversity in the natural world, even  within the category of ice forms. I’d love readers to take notice, to be curious about the world around them, to look deeply and closely at things by using their senses—to hear, touch, smell and to create something that celebrates it in some way. So much joy comes from the process of creating. You never know where curiosity may lead you!

Free Educator Resources

Download the free activity guide from the Lerner website and make your own ice.

Watch the Ice Cycle Book Trailer

Praise for Ice Cycle

“A rewarding exploration of a common substance’s complex nature.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The art is a smooth constant; the graphic design is exceptional, and most poems have their own spread, building a multilevel and vibrant world.”—School Library Journal

“What a great tool to use in teaching children about ice!”–Children’s Literature

Connect with the author

Maria Gianferrari is a community scientist, self-taught naturalist and bird nerd who holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English. She lives in northern Virginia with her family and dog.

Read more from our authors and illustrators here.

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