Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review - Iced Out

Iced Out
by C K Smouha
illustrated by Isabella Bunnell
Date: 2019
Publisher: Cicada Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Wilfred Walrus and Neville Narwhal are the only kids in Miss Blubber’s class who are not seals. Life is tough being the odd ones out - lunchtimes and football matches and school photos all present challenges to the two outliers. And they don’t even like each other very much!

When Betty Beluga joins the class, everything changes. Betty is smart and independent and amazing at football. As a friendship forms, Betty helps the two boys to recognise that being different isn’t always a bad thing!

A warm, funny tale about friendship and fitting in that school-aged children are sure to identify with. Isabella Bunnell’s joyous watercolour illustrations are complimented by luxuriant packaging.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book isn't terrible, but it has a couple of problems.

The first is the cover. This is a story about anthropomorphized arctic mammals who do things like sit in desks, watch TV, and play soccer. But you wouldn't know it from the cover, which just shows a walrus, a narwhal, and a beluga swimming in the sea. People do judge books by covers (despite the saying warning us not to), and I'm afraid the cover of this one doesn't really draw a potential reader in.

The second problem is that there doesn't seem to be a very good message. According to the synopsis, the book is about being different and fitting in. The issue I have is that none of that is really resolved, except as a result of Betty Beluga's presence. Before she arrives, Wilfred and Neville (walrus and narwhal, respectively) are social pariahs. Wilfred smells bad and Neville keeps destroying soccer balls with his pointy tooth. When Betty shows up, all the kids want to be her friend. They invite her to parties and just generally fall all over themselves to try to be her BFF. Wilfred and Neville are no different. Betty eventually becomes their friend because of a shared interest... and, suddenly, Wilfred and Neville are accepted by the rest of their classmates! What changed? Nothing... except that they're now "cool" because of their proximity to Betty. I'm not sure that's a healthy message.

The illustrations are really rough, with a limited colour palette. But they're also kind of amusing. I'm not blown away by them, but they work well enough for the story.

Still, the story isn't that strong, and I'd be hesitant to recommend this one due to the message (which seems to be "befriend a popular kid and all your social issues will be resolved"). This had the potential to be a fun little story, but I think it kind of missed the mark.

Thank you to NetGalley and Cicada Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.5 out of 5

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