Aunt Betty Horns In by Sally Sockwell

Aunt Betty Horns In

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When New York City prosecutors try to debunk the “unicorns” in a circus, a young girl and her aunt’s friends defend the maligned mythical animals in court.

Actress-turned-author Sockwell makes her writing debut with a comical chapter book (heavily illustrated by her) whose point of departure is the Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus displaying a live “unicorn” a few decades ago. The animal was actually a one-horned goat, and in Sockwell’s riff, there is an entire herd of them. New York schoolgirl Emily becomes enchanted with the creatures. She’s not enjoying class, and the notion of unicorns brings magic into Emily’s world—as does visiting her eccentric, cigar-smoking maiden aunt Betty, who comes accessorized with a set of equally quirky, strong-minded, middle-aged friends. When New York authorities and media crack down on the circus, accusing it of promulgating fraud and animal cruelty, Emily inspires Betty to get her activist-lawyer friend Marge to champion the case for legally recognized unicorn existence. In a denouement not unlike Miracle on 34th Street, Marge and Emily wind up in court attempting to prove to a jury the right of goats to self-identify as unicorns if that’s what they really want—in Sockwell’s universe, goats/unicorns and other animals can talk, testify, and behave just like humans (and worry about their futures in showbiz). While certain grown-up readers who demand to sift for agendas in all the whimsy may detect a subliminal argument for LGBT rights, young readers will likely just enjoy the gentle silliness of the prose and the line-art drawings. There is certainly an undisguised theme of girl power (and mature woman power) and standing up for a cause one believes in, even if by the end of the clever story, Emily seems a bit torn between an adult career as a crusading lawyer like Marge and a beguiling Hollywood actress with lots of swimsuits.

An amusing tale about unicorns in the city, with undertones of citizen action and female empowerment.

Pub Date: July 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63177-441-6
Page count: 160pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
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