Review: The Ickabog

The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books, even if I don’t agree with many of Rowling’s views, so when I saw that she’d written another children’s book, I thought I’d give it a try. I was even more intrigued because of the beautiful cover.

Read: June 5 – June 9, 2023

Buy Your Own Copy

Book contains: murder, manipulation, trickery

Excellent Portrayal of the Dangers of Greed

The kingdom of Cornucopia was once rich, prosperous, and happy, producing the most delicious food in all the world, but the death of the king’s head seamstress spurs into action a series of events that nearly lead to the downfall of the whole kingdom. A vain, clueless king and two greedy lords are all it takes to craft a lie so terrifying that the country falls, and the lie just keeps getting bigger.

This book is a fairy tale. It begins with Once upon a time and everything. It’s specifically written for children, maybe ages 7 to 11, and features artwork from young children across the United States and Canada, written for the Ickabog Illustration Contest that was held when the book first became available during the Covid-19 pandemic, when everyone was trapped inside. It’s also a very (physically) heavy book because of these images, as the pages have to be thicker to withstand the colour printing.

The plot of the book was very cohesive, and each scene felt carefully crafted; Rowling delivers quality writing, after all. There were scenes that fell right into place that also served the purpose of setting up later scenes nicely, and the progression of the lie about the Ickabog just keeps growing deeper and deeper that you wonder if the characters will ever be able to fix it. At the same time, you know that the lie cannot possibly sustain itself against anything hard-hitting; fear and greed are the only things keeping it in place.

The characters, too, are very good. Simplistic, since it’s a children’s book, but also with enough complexity hidden under their layers that older readers don’t get bored. The story centres mostly around Daisy Dovetail and Bert Beamish as the heroes, and Lord Spittleworth (and Lord Flapoon) as the villain who is greedy for gold and clever enough to get his way. King Fred is, unfortunately, unaware of Spittleworth’s trickery, and easily fooled into making decisions that benefit the wicked lord.

I will say that it’s extremely frustrating (in a good way) to read this book because you are fully aware of what’s happening while the characters are not. It’s skillful on part of the author that the lie keeps growing and no one is doing anything about it because of the fear of retribution against them. They cannot trust their neighbours, and the power of their voices is nonexistent in the face of the power wielded by the lord and his soldiers.

The lesson to be learned from this fairy tale is how greed and manipulation cause harm and are never sustainable. The lie that Spittleworth crafted about the Ickabog lasted years, hurt many people, and killed many more, but there was always going to be something to poke a hole in his fabrication.

I didn’t give this book a higher rating because while it was interesting and I enjoyed reading it, there were some things that I didn’t enjoy which outweighed what I did. Though, these things contain spoilers, so I can’t list them here—plus, it would just feel like nitpicking at this point: a whole bunch of little things and some bigger things that I didn’t like.

I do like that there were zero mistakes in the spelling and grammar; it’s always great to be able to get through a book without typos. They happen to everyone, but when they don’t, it’s wonderful.

I still recommend this book for parents to read to their children, because while there are some things—closed-minded views that Rowling has been vocal about and which appear in her writing—that children shouldn’t take away from it, there are still many great lessons to be learned here. There are always other books that can teach a child those lessons which are absent here.

One response to “Review: The Ickabog”

  1. I want to read this book.

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