Iced Out by C. K. Smouha and illustrated by Isabella Bunnell is the sort of children’s book whose message I fully support, though I find the overall execution of it somewhat lacking. A story about being yourself and accepting others for who they are rather than judging them for their looks or things out of their control, Iced Out seeks to promote acceptance. Unfortunately, it does more to suggest that becoming friends with someone popular will make others accept you than anything else.
In general, the story was okay. It wasn’t too clever or anything, but it had a clear goal that wasn’t terrible. Still, I found a number of things odd and problematic. The story follows Wilfred and Neville, a walrus and a narwhal who are forced together by the mere circumstance of being disliked by the rest of their classmates. To make matters worse, the two actually don’t even like each other. And resultingly, they’re pretty miserable. But that all changes when Betty the beluga whale joins their class and the two of them quickly become quite obsessed, or smitten as the book says, with her.
Thus the two begin doing whatever they can to impress her. Neville even practices a soccer move to get her to like him. Ironically, he was cited as being disliked because he was bad at soccer and his “tooth” would often pop all the balls. And then for some reason, they both want Betty to choose between them and pick one to be her boyfriend. So. instead of working to improve skills for himself, he’s merely trying to impress someone who isn’t going to be impressed.
The resolution of the issues, moving into the acceptance of everyone, comes too quickly and too unrealistically. Thus, the achievements Wilfred and Neville find themselves getting as they begin to join their classmates in various activities feels rather contrived in the end. I felt odd about a lot of the things that happened and none of it ever really did a decent job of supporting the message that the book was clearly trying to send.
While the artwork was cute, overall I couldn’t really bring myself to be all that impressed with this book overall. It just didn’t work the way it seemed it was meant to.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.