Cecil the Pet Glacier

Overview

In a starred review Publishers Weekly raves: "It’s an avant-garde, surrealist story with a Hollywood-style tearjerker lurking within—and a surprisingly charming and affecting one at that."

Award-winning poet Matthea Harvey and illustrator extraordinaire Giselle Potter team up to create an indescribably unique picture book about wanting to be normal, then coming to appreciate being different. Ruby would love to be like everyone else—not easy when you have a tiara-wearing mother ...

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Overview

In a starred review Publishers Weekly raves: "It’s an avant-garde, surrealist story with a Hollywood-style tearjerker lurking within—and a surprisingly charming and affecting one at that."

Award-winning poet Matthea Harvey and illustrator extraordinaire Giselle Potter team up to create an indescribably unique picture book about wanting to be normal, then coming to appreciate being different. Ruby would love to be like everyone else—not easy when you have a tiara-wearing mother and a father who spends his time trimming outrageous topiary. She'd also like to get a nice normal pet, maybe a dog. Then, on a family vacation to Norway, she finds herself adopted by a small, affectionate glacier. How Cecil, as the ice pet is named, proves himself to Ruby—risking his own meltdown—is a story sure to thrill and delight young readers.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Ruby Small, "a normal little girl," has eccentric parents. Her mother designs tiaras; her father is a topiary gardener. Their behavior is so odd that Ruby plays behind curtains with her Three Jennifers, identical dolls dressed just like her. When the family goes to Norway on vacation, Ruby is embarrassed by her parents. On a trip to see glaciers, one glacier is calving. A small resulting glacier half Ruby's size begins to follow her everywhere. Although she is occasionally lonely and would like a pet, a tiny glacier is not what Ruby had in mind. But it seems a pet has found her; placed in an ice chest, Cecil comes back home with her. Ruby does not want to care for Cecil, but he follows her faithfully, noting how the other children tease her. His brave heroism finally wins her over, however, and helps her find a real friend. The watercolors that set the tone for this stretch of the imagination are charming in their simple, doll-like innocence as they depict the stiff, clean-cut characters. The humor created is enhanced by odd additions like the topiaries, tiaras, and even the ping pong game Mr. and Mrs. Small play on the airplane. Cecil sits alone on the front end pages but is joined by the Three Jennifers and topped with a tiara in the back.
Kirkus Reviews
The oft-told tale of a child who yearns for a pet and a creature that craves a human gets a new twist when the latter is a baby glacier. This chip--off a block named Cecilsmater--latches on to Ruby during a family vacation in Norway. The child's classmates already taunt her about her unusual parents, so she really doesn't need a glacier tagging along behind her. Mrs. Small designs tiaras; Mr. Small creates topiaries. These artsy adults also tango on the front lawn, leaving Ruby mortified. Her main consolation is derived from the companionship of "The Three Jennifers," dolls that look and dress exactly like Ruby. She shuns the loyal ice floe and ignores her parents' encouragement, until Cecil performs a dramatic doll rescue during a thunderstorm--at great personal peril. Harvey's alliteration adds humor to this saga of tension 'twixt the generations. " ‘Welcome, Smalls,' a blue-haired man named Sven sa[ys] severely," when the family registers for snowmobiles in Horfensnufen. Potter's watercolor caricatures, with their tiny feet and restrained demeanors, enact their story in scenes with skewed perspectives and strong diagonals, choices that heighten the absurdity. Ultimately, Ruby learns to appreciate her pet's coolness; consequently, she attracts a new friend, and in her newfound happiness, she relates more lovingly to her family. Fans of Jenny Slate's Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2011) will find a kindred spirit in the stalwart glacier that eats pebbles and wears a tiara. (Picture book. 5-8)
The New York Times Book Review
Harvey's story is both completely absurd and psychologically astute—a hard trick to pull off, and a funny one, too. Potter's wry illustrations capture the tone perfectly, a mix of faux-naïve rendering and canny composition.
—Bruce Handy
From the Publisher
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.”
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Ruby Small is an almost-normal child living with very unusual parents. Her mother designs tiaras and is never without one… or 15. Dad is a topiary gardener, and he and her mom dance the tango in the yard on summer evenings. Ruby is mortified by their habits and prefers to play inside with her dolls, The Three Jennifers. The Jennifers and Ruby dress identically in brown pinafores, white shirts, and brown triple-knotted shoes. It's a strange life. Stranger still is their vacation. A slight misunderstanding finds them on their way to Norway instead of China. Weird at home, Ruby's parents enjoy miniature Ping-Pong on the foldout trays on the plane and drink a mixture of milk and Coke. Even the discussion about getting a pet upon their return turns bizarre. So, of course, on the trip a small pet becomes attached to Ruby and makes its way home with them. Unfortunately, it's a glacier. That's correct: a tiny piece of the Cecilsmater glacier. Predictably, Ruby is unimpressed and would just as soon ignore it. And predictably, Cecil manages to save the day and win Ruby's heart when one of the Jennifers is nearly washed away in a storm. The folk-art-style illustrations are done in pleasant watercolors and have a certain offbeat charm. However, seeing Ruby accompanied by a small, white lump on each page takes some getting used to. While attempting to cultivate an appreciation for being different, this rather unusual plot is likely to have a limited appeal.—Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375867736
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 8/14/2012
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,463,781
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet 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.

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