Meet Your New BFF

Harold the Iceberg Melts Down Is The Perfect Picture Book For Anxious Kids

“He’s like me,” my 8-year-old worrier said.

Originally Published: 
This Book Belongs To
We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

My 8-year-old daughter, Alice, is a worrier. She’s one of those kids who listens to everything and everyone, and really feels tragic events and stories, so she does a lot of “spiraling.” She once heard a story about a kid swallowing a coin and blocking his own airways and then spent the next two days chewing up food and spitting it out because she was afraid it would be too big for her to swallow and she’d block her airway. Talking to her about these spirals has only made her feel helpless, until we introduced her to a brand new children’s book, Harold the Iceberg Melts Down, written by Lisa Wyzlic and illustrated by Rebecca Syracuse.

The anxiety my daughter experiences isn’t debilitating — after some time of spiraling, we can get her back to feeling safe — but it is exhausting, and it’s often hard to parent when you’re constantly worried about your kid’s worries. And this beautiful picture book, featuring whimsical illustrations of Harold, a head of iceberg lettuce, and all his pals in the refrigerator really seems to get just how exhausting those spirals are — for the ones who are spiraling and for the ones who love them.

In the story, Harold is a known worrier, but when he watches a documentary about the icebergs melting, he really begins to panic. After all, he is a type of iceberg, too. How can he prevent himself from melting? What can he do about it? His friends manage to point out to him that he’s not an actual iceberg, but an iceberg lettuce, which pleases him for a bit — until he remembers real icebergs are still melting. Now what?

As a kid who also worried now parenting a worrier, this book made me cry a bit with how perfect it gets the “spirals.” Harold’s mind literally can not settle, and even when his friends try the calm-down methods they know often help him, he struggles. And when he works through his original worry, but there are still concerning things happening, he has to deal with those, too. It’s like peeling back all of the anxiety to find what’s really bothering you — and making it more manageable to deal with.

The author tells me that if Harold has to be based on anybody, it’s her. “I am a deeply anxious person and while it wasn’t my intention to model him after myself, it was really easy for me to get my brain into that anxious headspace,” Wyzlic explains. But she shares that she generally keeps her own meltdowns to herself, “which isn’t healthy,” she adds, and that the character of Harold is teaching her to be more “open and honest about it.” I think she’s nailed it. My 8-year-old’s first reaction while reading this story was, “Oh! He’s like me.”

I asked Wyzlic and Syracuse both about character and design choices in the story, how they hope people relate to Harold, and the work they did in showing Harold’s feelings.

My favorite part is how Harold’s friends try to be patient with his meltdown, but ultimately have to try and steer him in a better direction.

LW: This is probably my favorite part, too. Through writing Harold, I had to think about how his friends handle this. While I wanted the situation to be funny, I didn’t want Harold’s feelings to be treated like a joke, so that narrowed down the potential responses from his friends. I also didn’t want it to be the well-intentioned, but overall pretty unhelpful, “Well, just stop thinking/worrying about it!” So, it became an opportunity to not only be a silly book, but show the kind of ways friends can interact with and help a friend with anxiety. Including just letting your friend screech their worries at you for a while.

My 8-year-old sees so much of herself in Harold. How does it feel to write a character that is so relatable for both kids and adults?

LW: I love that people of any age can relate to Harold, and more specifically that they can talk about the ways in which they relate to Harold through discussing the book. I know I personally don’t always know how to express or describe what I’m feeling when it comes to my mental health until I see someone else say it, and then I’m like “Yes, that! That’s my brain!”

Are there future plans for Harold the Iceberg?

LW: Harold has a sequel in the works where he explores some more Big Feelings! We are expecting it to come out spring of next year.

The illustrations of Harold with his friends convey so many emotions. What do you look for when trying to show emotions in characters that don’t normally have expressions, like vegetables?

RS: Giving something like, say, a head of lettuce, a full range of human emotions presents a really fun challenge for an illustrator! Arms and eyes do a lot of heavy lifting in making them feel expressive, but if you look closely, you can find other ways to make them feel even more human. Harold for example has his floppy combover hair! When it hangs over his eyes we can make him feel sad or shy. When his leaves are all out of sorts we can make him feel manic or out-of-control. There are little details on all of the characters we can manipulate to give them even more life, even if they’re just vegetables.

I noticed a lot of the more anxiety-riddled pages (like when Harold is hearing about icebergs and panicking to his friends) are darker palettes, but when he's counting or blowing bubbles, the pages are lighter/more open. Was this an intentional choice?

RS: We were very intentional with our color choices in Harold! Color can do just as much storytelling in a picture book as the drawings themselves! For Harold, the pages where Harold’s friends attempt to pull him out of his spiral are brighter. We wanted to show with these brighter colors that the attempts to pull Harold back to reality do work (if only briefly!). When the friends finally get through to Harold with the suggestion of blowing bubbles, we used a soft, comforting pink hue, which is really different than anything else you see in the book. It’s also the first time we see Harold calmed.

Which was your favorite character to draw?

RS: My favorite character to draw was the king oyster mushroom on the last spread! His expression totally cracks me up — he’s just drawing a sign and doing his best to contribute and participate. I can relate!

Harold the Iceberg Melts Down is available now to purchase at major retailers, including Amazon, for $18.99.

This article was originally published on