What is the secret of the 12 unicorns?
In this horned-and-hooved variant on “The 12 Dancing Princesses,” a benevolent king highly prizes his unicorns, feeling a special kinship with them. Every day, a goldsmith forges new chains to keep them from running away. But every morning, the king finds the chains broken and the unicorns sleeping soundly in their corral. Villagers come from miles around to observe them, none more lovingly than a certain little girl who adores the smallest unicorn. The king decrees that whoever can discover the secret of the broken chains will win a prize of his choosing. The girl’s mother gives her a magic cloak made of gossamer, and that night, she slips between the slats of the fence unnoticed by the guards. At the stroke of midnight, the unicorns shake their heads in unison, and the guards freeze. The girl watches in fascination as the unicorns dig a deep hole, which leads to a tunnel and their escape. Fairies follow as they gallop through beautiful glades; the girl rides the smallest. She reports to the king, declaring that freedom for the unicorns will be her prize, and he gives the smallest unicorn to her as a gift. Gerard supplies dreamlike illustrations to accompany this wish-fulfillment story for little girls, and there’s much rococo embellishment both in the design and the storytelling.
Clichéd but attractive to its target audience. (Picture book. 5-8)