Favorite Read-Alouds: The Ice Cream Heroes

This week brings us a new feature–Read Alouds that work with crowds!  Old Favorites will be back, but after doing last week’s entry for Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library! I started thinking that sharing some Read Alouds would be fun.

Make no mistake, these are also good books to read to yourself too, but if parents or teachers are looking for something to share with a child or group of children, knowing something that has worked for someone else is always useful.

The first Read Aloud to be featured is The Ice Cream Heroes, by Judy Corbalis. It’s a quirky little book, and perhaps not one that you would expect to be successful with a group. But every time I’ve read it to an AfterSchool BookClub, it’s been extremely popular. Plus…it’s perfect for this week: where else would you see more winter weather than we’ve had in the past 24 hours that in the Himalayas?

* * *

Oskar’s mother is a very famous mountaineer, but a little forgetful. She’s left Oskar with his grandmother while she goes out on a climb in the Himalayas. Once she gets there though, she realizes that she left her favorite ice pick behind. She sends a singing gorillagram to Oskar, asking him to deliver it.  After a lot of confusion, both Oskar and Henrietta–the girl in the gorilla suit who delivered the gorillagram–are on their way to the Himalayas with the ice pick and a message from Oskar’s granny that she’s not delivering it.  (Oskar wasn’t actually supposed to deliver the ice pick, but he thought it would be more fun than staying with Uncle Gilbert while Granny swam the English channel.)

Once they reach the Himalayas, the kids discover that Oskar’s mother is missing. Not only that, but they’re kidnapped by a wild tribe of Yetis, who bring them to a cave in the middle of nowhere. Oskar escapes, and finds himself in even worse danger–trapped in the dungeon of an ice cream castle, with the former ruler, the Great Khone, imprisoned in the next cell. The Great Khone is searching for the world’s supply of ice cream, which has been stolen by the dastardly Controller. Is the ice cream castle a coincidence, or an indication that they’re prisoners of the horrible arch-villain?

And that’s only the beginning!

Can Oskar get back to rescue Henrietta? Can he find and rescue his mother? Will he help the Great Khone regain his throne?  With the people he loves AND the world’s supply of ice cream hanging in the balance, Oskar must find a way!

* * *

I said this was quirky, and it is. You wouldn’t think that all those elements (and many more) could even be contained in the same story, let alone create a delicious plot that kids seem to love. And yet…they are and they do. Every time I’ve read this book aloud, I’ve been surprised at how successful it’s been.

The Ice Cream Heroes was originally published in Great Britain in 1988 as Oskar and the Ice Pick, and a year later in the United States. It didn’t receive much attention, then or now, but everyone who I’ve read it too can tell me the plot and their favorite parts years later. It’s very similar to Roald Dahl’s books, with some silly songs, outrageous characters and over-the-top plot elements. But along with all of this, it has ice cream in a enormous variety of twisted flavors, abominable snowmen (and snowwomen, and snowbabies), a goth governess and a girl in a gorilla costume. How could you go wrong?

Try it as a read-alone or as a read-aloud. I guarantee it will stick with you! I’ve read it to second, third and fourth graders, but it’s probably a fourth/fifth grade reading level. It’s a bit British, so some vocabulary might have to be clarified for younger kids.


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