Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date released: 20/11/2020
Date read: 13/02/2021
Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.
But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands…the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries of wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it’s just a myth…
And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom, two children – best friends Bert and Daisy – embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.
I might be a tad biased here because of my love for J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. As someone from the original Potter generation, I find myself very protective over it. I have a Potter tattoo, did my University dissertation on the movies, and even worked at the studio tour. So, it’s always an excitement when Rowling brings out something new.
But Harry Potter this is not. Yes it is a children’s book that appeals to adults – very much like Potter. But there is no point in comparing the two. The Ickabog is a standalone book with its own fantastical world. As much as I adore Harry Potter – the books, the movies and everything else that comes along with it – it’s important to remember that J.K. Rowling is not Harry Potter. She is much more than just one character, no matter how successful he was.
There’s no getting past the fact that The Ickabog is fundamentally a children’s book. And that’s not a bad thing. Rowling had this amazing quality in HP of making fantastical things appear so very real and she does exactly the same thing here. Every city, every person every creature is so real that you feel like you could walk out your front door straight into Cornucopia itself.
I read this book in one day. That’s not to say it’s an easy children’s book that is quick to read. It’s actually fairly long with a hefty narrative. I had no plan to read it all in one go, but once I had started, I just couldn’t bear to put it down for fear I would be banished from its world.
Whilst this is fundamentally a children’s book, as I said, it is beautifully written and has such heart to it without being overly pushy. Don’t let it being a children’s book put you off. I’m almost 30 and I found this as touching as a child would. Perhaps even more so.
As Rowling puts it, it is important now perhaps more than ever to remember that “countries can be made gentle by kindness.”