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Cecil the Pet Glacier Hardcover – Aug 14 2012
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Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, June 6, 2012:
“It’s an avant-garde, surrealist story with a Hollywood-style tearjerker lurking within—
and a surprisingly charming and affecting one at that.”
About the Author
MATTHEA HARVEY is the author of several books of poetry, including Modern Life, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. Other books include a storybook called The Little General and the Giant Snowflake and an illustrated erasure, Of Lamb. Matthea teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn. Learn more at mattheaharvey.com.
GISELLE POTTER's children's books include, most recently, The Orphan by Anthony Manna and Christadoula Mitakadou; The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, a Parents' Choice Gold Award winner; Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne, a Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal Best Book and an ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book; and The Big Box by Toni Morrison. She also wrote and illustrated two autobiographical picture books, The Year I Didn't Go to School and Chloe's Birthday and Me. Giselle lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband and daughters. Visit her at GisellePotter.com.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Ruby Small likes to think of herself as an aggressively normal kid. It's not her fault that her father is a topiary artist, and her mother is a tiara designer. Relatively flat watercolor illustrations depict a straight-faced family amidst some pretty zany ideas with tongue-in-cheek humor. I loved the way Ruby's father calls her by the pet name "hedgeling," and her mother packs dozens of hatboxes for their vacation, since she doesn't like to repeat tiaras while she's traveling.
When Cecil the Glacier appears to imprint on a reluctant Ruby, her first words are, "Oh, no... Please no." Poor little Cecil has a lot of personality for a bob of ice. He's devastated when Ruby is picked on at school, "Cecil shed a tear... from the area where his eyes would have been if he'd had eyes, which he didn't." Ruby finally comes around after Cecil risks his life saving one of her three boring, yet beloved dolls, all named Jennifer. The story ends with a promise of Ruby starting to embrace her inner weirdness. Great fun for older kids.
Before this dramatic event occurs, the story opens with a glacier-less Ruby, "a normal little girl" who values conformity. Her eccentric parents test her sanity daily by dancing the tango on the front lawn among the fabulous topiary Mr. Small trims and shapes. Ruby keeps her distance from the pair, staying indoors, curtains drawn, and playing with her trio of dolls, "The Three Jennifers," each one dressed like Ruby in plain brown pinafores.
When the family travels to Norway for vacation, a "tiny, strange-shape glacier" befriends her and follows her around. The attachment is one-sided as Ruby is mortified by the glacier's attention. She looks forward to the end of vacation when she'll be leaving "the ice-pest" behind. Except her parents, delighted with the unusual pet, purchase an ice chest and Cecil travels back home with them. There, Ruby ignores Cecil until the fateful day on the school playground when the little ice floe distinguishes itself by saving one of Ruby's beloved dolls at great cost to itself, earning in the process Ruby's admiration and gratitude.
This quirky picture book exudes charm and the details are spot on. Cecil, for example, is fed a diet of pebbles. "Finicky like a cat, he liked white and black pebbles but wouldn't eat the gray ones." And my favorite line: "He didn't speak, but when he was happy he creaked." Potter's surreal watercolor illustrations are a perfect marriage with Harvey's quirky text.
I am a heap big fan of Matthea Harvey's poetry [see Modern Life: Poems (Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award)], so when I found out she'd written childrens' books, I immediately hit my library's website and put one on hold. And I was... surprised. It's a lot more, for want of a better word, traditional than I expected it to be. Well, aside from the fact that Ruby's would-be pet is a chunk of ice. But that fits in well with her family (trust me on this), and allows Harvey to slip in a bit o' learnin' here and there about a subject that doesn't normally get much play in the average pre-lit story. (The story line actually put me in mind of Emily Jenkins' wunnerful-wunnerful Sugar Would Not Eat It more than once; I'm sure this link was strengthened by the fact that the equally wunnerful-wunnerful Giselle Potter illustrated both books, and between the two of them she's found herself a lifelong fan.) For kids--and parents--who are fond of things that are a little off, or more than a little off, this book is going to be pure balm for the soul, and when the kids are older enough (for I have little doubt this one will hang around much longer than the usual pre-lit book in the family reading list) to start thinking about books in terms of authors, and asking you "hey, what else is out there by Matthea Harvey?", you've got yourself a perfect way to say "here, let me read you a poem from a book called Pity the Bathtub in Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form." *** ½