Ruby Small is a normal little girl. If we zoom out from a close-up of Ruby, we quickly see a family and a world that is full of wacky eccentricities.
Her parents are definitely not-so-normal. Together, they own a little shop called “Topiary & Tiaras: Sprigs and Sparkles;” Mrs. Small designs fancy tiaras while Mr. Small is a topiary gardener. In the evenings Mrs. Small dons the glittery headdresses she creates by day and they “tango cheek to cheek” amidst his leafy creations.
Wanting to be just a little closer to normal, Ruby wants a pet. She voices this desire while seated on an airplane to Norway—her parents didn’t hear her grumpy “no way” when Mr. Small told his girls that he wanted to go to China to see a rhinoceros made out of rosemary. Her father heard “Norway,” not “no way.” Norway seemed fantastic and different to her parents, so…off they go.
Back to the pet: Her mom suggests a glow-in-the-dark jellyfish, her dad suggests a flea circus. These are pets with quirkiness that would clearly fit right in.
Of course, Ruby just wants a dog. While sight-seeing in Norway, the family visits a glacier that is too large, and as they watch, it undergoes a process called “calving”—small pieces break off and float down the river. One of those little pieces floats itself right over to Ruby (and the three Jennifers). The family’s new pet has found them.
A quick purchase of an igloo cooler allows them to take Cecil the glacier home with them. Mr. and Mrs. Small care for him, openly accepting his eccentricities—including pebble dinners and ice baths.
While her parents care for Cecil, it is Ruby that Cecil loves. He follows her to school every day and witnesses the teasing Ruby undergoes as a consequence for her strange family. But she doesn’t pay him any attention until the day he rescues one of the Jennifers from a thunderstorm.
Suddenly, she appreciates him. She quickly becomes a little cooler in the eyes of a few classmates for having such an odd pet. She even decides to let her mother design a tiara just for Cecil.
Throughout the book, through the gentle humor and strong voice of Matthea Harvey, I felt Ruby’s awkwardness around her own family. She loves them but is frustrated that her life seems miles from normal.
Childhood is difficult in itself; when you add parents that stand out in an unashamed way, it seems pretty unbearable. In a very odd way, this book is able to embody that feeling within a child—and also as the quirkiness of a family follows the child to school. Because that’s the worst, right? When you can’t pretend that everything is normal at home.
And there lies the lesson of this one-of-a-kind book: Accept those things about you that make you unique—that make you YOU—and you’ll be a little more okay with yourself.
Don’t try to hide what makes you different: celebrate it! Or, as my daughter says about her two young brothers, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I hope the Rubies in the world join in and tango with tiaras rather than hop on the boring track of normal.
The fact that a glacier—a named and loved pet glacier—is involved with this lesson comes as a bit of a surprise to me. This is one of the oddest children’s books I’ve ever read. But…I think it works. It takes a few readings, but I think the Smalls have something to share. (The recommended age is 4-8 but I think 6-8 is more appropriate.)
Cecil the Pet Glacier
By Matthea Harvey and Giselle Potter
Random House http://www.randomhouse.com/kids
Price: available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! for approximately $14
|Easy to Read||3|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||3|
|Kept My Child(ren)’s interest||3|
|I Would Purchase This For My Family||no|
|I would Purchase This As A Gift||yes|
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at