Review of ‘Iceberg’
Author: Claire Saxby
Illustrator: Jess Racklyeft
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Age Range: lower primary, middle primary, upper primary
Themes: Antarctica, icebergs, sea life, climate change, global warming, natural history, life cycles, food chains, seasons, animal migration, ecosystems.
Teachers’ Notes: download the darned excellent (well done Tye!) notes here (scroll to end of page).
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Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft take a bow; ‘Iceberg’ is a visual and literary masterpiece. It went straight to my bookshelf marked ‘keep forever’, under sub-sections ‘visual literacy masterpiece’ and ‘sure to pick up all awards this coming year’.
Technically such a shelf does not actually exist in my house because I have rather a lot of small people hooning through the house, the food and the books (as it should be) but the shelf absolutely exists in my mind. So when the five-year-old opened the first page the other day and let out a long ‘woooooow’ I added ‘… and so we must be very careful with this book because Megan wants it keep it forever … deal dude?”.
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In the final freeze of an Antarctic winter, green tails wave across a star-full sky, as if to farewell endless nights. If this world looks empty, look closer…
Penguins trek across the ice to their winter homes. As the temperature warms, birds fly above on their long migrations. And with the advent of summer, beneath an iceberg, the sea is teeming with life. Ocean, sky, snow and ice – minute greens and giant blues – dance a delicate dance.
Making an iceberg the main character of a story and sharing its life from birth to death perhaps does not strike one as an obvious topic for a children’s book, but then this is why Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft are both highly regarded and highly awarded; they have taken an idea and created an artwork both magical and unique and a book that readers did not know they needed until they read it. Saxby’s text is sophisticated, poetic and accessible all at once and Racklyeft’s illustrations are multi-layered and luminescent; ‘Iceberg’ is text and images in perfect harmony … they are indeed ‘woooooow’ as proclaimed by the five-year-old.
‘Iceberg’ draws the reader into the remarkable Antarctic landscape above and below seawater and takes them on a journey through the life cycle of an iceberg. The astute reader will spy shadows of orcas and spot seabirds, seals and whales in a landscape that is immense and foreboding as much as it is fragile. This is the perfect prompt for starting research work on Antartica, life cycles, food chains, seasons, animal migration and/or ecosystems in a middle primary classroom, or extending a personal area of interest. It will also appeal to young minds exploring issues around climate change and global warming; the postscript a gentle yet powerful plea to respect and protect the natural world.
Saxby’s lyrical text is full of high modality verbs and rich vocabulary which almost demands multiple re-readings in order to truly appreciate its sophistication and I see a word wall in the library based on ‘Iceberg’ in my near future!
‘Iceberg’ is also the perfect example of visual literacy and the ideal book for artistic study with older students. Racklyeft has managed to showcase all the colours and textures of a landscape we often imagine as largely blue and white. She has expertly brushed translucent layers of watercolour and used collage to further create depth, movement and atmosphere.
Also Written by Claire Saxby:
Peruse and purchase books by Claire Saxby here.
Also Illustrated by Jess Rackyleft:
Peruse and purchase books by Jess Rackyleft here.