Elliot and Uchenna, now full-fledged members of the Unicorn Rescue Society, are back for a second adventure following series opener The Creature of the Pines (2018).
Opening the day after the previous book ends, Elliot finds a mysterious package awaiting him on his front step. He is afraid that the package, containing a book called The Country of Basque, portends another strange day—and he’s right. He and his friend Uchenna are whisked away by Professor Fauna in his unreliable single-propeller plane to the Basque Country. Even if readers can suspend disbelief long enough to believe that a single-prop plane with three passengers (and a small Jersey Devil) could safely cross the Atlantic, they may still wonder, as Elliot does, about the wisdom of flying off with a weird teacher, especially without informing anyone of their whereabouts. In the Basque Country, they meet fellow Society member Mixtel Mendizabal. Mixtel explains how he took up the mantle of caring for a dragon that has been kidnapped by—no surprise—the rich, greedy Schmoke brothers, villains of the first book. Gidwitz and Casey sprinkle in some substance by examining the difference between isolation and independence and, refreshingly, questioning and rejecting gender norms through Uchenna’s character. However, the lack of character development and the combination of unrealistic and predictable elements of this second offering may leave readers cold. Elliot is white, Uchenna is black, and Professor Fauna is Peruvian.
Not fantastic. (Fantasy. 7-10)