Cecil: The Pet Glacier: Matthea Harvey & Giselle Potter
February 11, 2013
Book: Cecil: The Pet Glacier
Author: Matthea Harvey
Illustrator: Giselle Potter
Age Range: 5 and up
As one might expect from the title, Cecil: The Pet Glacier is a rather quirky picture book. The choice of Giselle Potter as illustrator augments this quirkiness perfectly. As the book opens, we learn that "Ruby Small (is) a normal little girl." She carries around three identical dolls each named Jennifer. Ruby's parents, alas, are not at all normal. They celebrate their oddness, even as Ruby tries to be as ordinary as she can. When a small glacier starts following Ruby around on a visit to Norway, Ruby resists, but her parents encourage this hopeful sign of Ruby succumbing to the family weirdness.
Cecil: The Pet Glacier is definitely more suited to elementary school kids than to preschoolers. The text is quite dense, and relatively advanced in terms of vocabulary. Like this:
"That first morning at the guesthouse in Horfensnufen, breakfast was four tiny fish on a piece of toast, or, in her parents' case, a piece of toast on four tiny fish -- they loved eating food upside down.
Afterward, the Smalls walked to the tourist office. "Welcome, Smalls," a blue-haired man named Sven said severely. "Today, glacier.""
I like "Sven said severely." And I like that the Smalls ride pink snowmobiles to the glacier, for some reason. The scenes in which the glacier (who Sven orders them to call Cecil) starts following Ruby around are priceless. There's quite a bit of relatively subtle humor to Cecil: The Pet Glacier.
The illustrations are recognizably Giselle Potter's (see my review of her Wynken, Blynken, and Nod). Potter's tendency to draw children with adult-looking faces works perfectly here, given that Ruby is basically a mini-adult anyway (as are the three Jennifer dolls, which look somewhat creepily like Ruby). My favorite illustration shows the family on the plane. Ruby is buckled in with the three Jennifers, holding the family passports and looking disapproving while her parents play a tiny game on ping pong on their tray tables (Mama wearing a tiara). I'm not personally wild about Potter's somewhat gloomy illustration style, but I do think that she was a good choice for this particular book.
Cecil: The Pet Glacier is not going to be for everyone. But personally, I like the unconventional storyline (I mean, a glacier for a pet?), and the way that Harvey and Potter play it straight up. I like the overall message of the book, which is something on the order of "embrace the weird". I can actually think of a number of adult friends who might appreciate this one as a gift. I am going to hold on to the book for when Baby Bookworm is older, and see how she likes it. Cecil: The Pet Glacier is a 2012 Cybils nominee in Fiction Picture Books.
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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