The Ickabog

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Ickabog Book Poster Image
Harry Potter author's fairy tale is darker than expected.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The story shows how powerful fear and misinformation can be when perpetuated by government. Readers can think about how both factor into real-world problems (and at a much faster pace, thanks to the internet) and what kinds of people work hard to combat the spread of fear and lies.

Positive Messages

People you love and have lost will always be in your heart. Storng messages about the importance of hope and how truth, understanding, and empathy can combat fear. Kingdoms are made gentle through kindness. Once you start lying, you have to keep lying and the lies just keep getting bigger.

Positive Role Models

Daisy is brave and endures much hardship by being kind to others and maintaining hope. Bert shows he's clever and determined, despite being put down repeatedly in his life. He gives up his quest for revenge when he learns more about what happened to his father.

Violence

Many deaths, but most are just mentioned and not at all described. First a seamstress dies from exhaustion, then a man is shot by accident, and their young children and spouses mourn them heavily. A man is run through with a sword and buried in secret. Many people are kidnapped and killed or imprisoned, families are threatened with death, and people die of hunger, including many orphans and the parents who gave them up because they couldn't feed them. Orphans are abused mentally and physically and locked away -- they are hit, starved, and their given names are taken away. Kids fight and bully each other.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine drunk by royal party, people drink in the streets while they celebrate, the head of the orphanage drinks heavily and often. A mention that you could get tipsy simply by walking the streets of a city that is famous for its wines.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Ickabog by Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling was first published online in installments to entertain bored kids during the 2020 pandemic. The first print edition was released months later with illustrations by talented kid contest winners from all over the United States and Canada (for the North American printing). The Ickabog has a whimsy to it at first with a silly king and a prosperous kingdom full of wonderful pastries and sweet characters, but when things go awry the story gets much darker. There are many deaths, but most are just mentioned and not at all described. First a seamstress dies from exhaustion, then a man is shot by accident, and their young children and spouses mourn them heavily. A man is run through with a sword and buried in secret. Many people are kidnapped and killed or imprisoned, families are threatened with death, and people die of hunger, including many orphans and the parents who gave them up because they couldn't feed them. Orphans are abused mentally and physically and locked away -- they are hit, starved, and their given names are taken away. Kids fight and bully each other. There's also a fair amount of drinking by the king and his advisors and by the head of an orphanage, who is usually drunk. The Ickabog shows how powerful fear and misinformation can be when perpetuated by government. It also has some wonderful messages, like how your lost loved ones will always be in your heart, and how truth, understanding, and empathy can combat fear.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byms.britt January 7, 2021

Interesting Story

I read this book because I am a teacher and I like to read pieces of novels aloud to get students interested in reading the whole thing. First off, this story... Continue reading
Adult Written byRio17 January 4, 2021

Cliff hangers in every chapter!

Bought this to read aloud to my 7 & 9 year old sons for Christmas. The chapters are very short and easy to read. The boys are in love and we frequently... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byReading is the best April 3, 2021

Dark... and Incredible

This is another one of Mrs Rowling's extraordinary books. I enjoyed how it was very light-hearted in the beginning, but got darker.

The book is sensationa... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byTheWonderWillow April 2, 2021

Suprising and twisty!

This is a great book from a great author. Even despite my age this book was enjoyable. The violence isn't as bad as it sounds because it isn't graphic... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE ICKABOG, things start to go wrong for the prosperous kingdom of Cornucopia when King Fred the Fearless decides to ride into the Marshlands in the north to fight a creature known as the Ickabog. At first people laugh, saying the monster is only a myth, but when one of the king's foppish friends shoots the chief of police by accident in the thick fog, his other conniving friend, Lord Spittleworth, covers up his guilt with this ready-made tall tale. Spittleworth even convinces the king that he had a hand in fighting the beast, and begins to perpetuate fear throughout the kingdom. Fear leads to heavy taxes for an army, the disappearances of dissenters, and the end of prosperity in Cornucopia. When two kids figure out the extent of Spittleworth's lies, they try to find a way to expose him and save the kingdom.

Is it any good?

This fairy tale, first written to entertain author J. K. Rowling's children, has that wonderful read-aloud quality, but gets much darker than you'd expect from the whimsical setup. Things are light and airy as we get to know Fred the Fearless, the king who's not the least bit brave and loves his finery. His kingdom is idyllic with joy and abundance everywhere and, most importantly, the most delicious baked goods imaginable -- apparently people cry out for joy when they taste a Hopes-of-Heaven pastry. When things go wrong for silly Fred, you'd expect a hasty resolution that includes some mild embarrassment for his highness. Enter Lord Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon, the worst friends and royal advisors imaginable. Some of their lies are still funny -- like the Ickabog monster expert they invent aptly named Professor Fraudysham. But their other lies, and their unquenchable greed, leave the kingdom completely in ruins.

Kids bring the story and the kingdom around, but after the loss of parents and much hardship. Daisy endures years in an orphanage in the care of someone even worse than Annie's Miss Hannigan. When things are at their darkest for Daisy and friends, they find all their fears are unfounded. What should they have feared instead? The lies of the corrupt government, of course. It's a hearty morsel of truth that goes down easier paired with Cornucopia's delicious pastries and the wonderful illustrations by talented kid contest winners sprinkled throughout the book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how you first came upon The Ickabog. Did you read the online version as it came out? Did you buy the book? Which reading experience do you prefer? Why?

  • Were you surprised that there were so many deaths in this book? Why or why not? Why do you think J. K. Rowling made Lord Spittleworth so horrible and corrupt? Would the story have worked with a less despicable villain?

  • Would you read more about this kingdom? Why or why not?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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