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A likely pick for ubiquitous unicorn fans.

A clever girl’s efforts to win the smile of a Scottish prince lead to the origin of the unicorn.

When Prince Donald loses his smile, everyone in Scotland tries to help, but not one of the parties held, cakes baked, songs written, or fountains carved in his honor coaxes a smile. Hoping to amuse the prince with a new magical creature, the court magician mixes “fur and feathers, scales and claws,” but the resulting beast proves too frightening. Meanwhile, the magician’s granddaughter Hana invents her own special creature with a horse’s body, goat’s hooves, and a gazelle’s horn. She calls her creature a “unicorn.” When Prince Donald sees the beautiful unicorn, he can’t resist following it into the woods, where he and Hana eventually discover the magician’s banished beast, a winged lion with a scaly tail, fiercely attacking the gentle unicorn. As Donald helps the unicorn fight the beast, Hana relies on magic to transform the creature into a cat, a wren, and a lizard, saving the day. But will this earn her a smile from Prince Donald? Romantic illustrations in a medieval castle venue reinforce the fairy-tale elements of this retelling of a Scottish folktale, with the contemporary twist of a quick-thinking, brown-skinned female protagonist who comes to the rescue of the White prince. Full- and double-page close-ups of the lovely, white unicorn battling the fierce winged lion add memorable visual drama.

A likely pick for ubiquitous unicorn fans. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78250-647-8

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Kelpies

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A beautiful adventure about embracing both sides of one’s heritage.

A parent spins a bedtime story that takes a biracial child on a cross-cultural journey.

Donning a cloak and sturdy boots, the protagonist enters a lush autumn forest, venturing past “mischievous hobgoblins” and “glowing will-o’-the-wisps.” The pages are richly detailed, framed with decorative borders in a palette that is reminiscent of European fairy-tale illustrations with a touch of art nouveau. In a small thatched-roof cottage, the child encounters a White-presenting wise woman who describes dragons as “fearsome and fiery creatures” that hoard treasure and defeat knights. After learning this, the young adventurer slips into another forest, one with sumptuous, flowing ink illustrations in the style of traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Guided by the footprints of nine-tailed foxes and the advice of a white rabbit who lives on the moon, the child reaches the palace of a Chinese-presenting wise woman. In this realm, dragons are described as “majestic creatures of air and fire” who “rule in the skies and rivers” and control the rain. The Chinese-presenting parent ends the tale by noting that both worlds, though distinctly different, exist within the child and are open to be explored—and that “two wise grandmothers await / to share with you / their truth about dragons.” The book feels a little message-heavy, but it’s nevertheless a much-needed celebration of intergenerational storytelling and biracial identity. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautiful adventure about embracing both sides of one’s heritage. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781250820587

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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