A pretty story tenderly told and fabulously illustrated. A minstrel sings of a unicorn in a great hall, while nobles vie with one another as to which one will capture the creature. Tanisa the serving girl sees that Chris, the duke’s son, is as bloodthirsty as the rest. She attends the hunt the next day to serve at luncheon and wakes to find the white unicorn with its head in her lap. Chris stumbles upon them and draws his bow, but his arrow wounds Tanisa. The unicorn heals her and then him, changing his heart so that he promises to make the land safe for the unicorn. Tanisa and the unicorn flee until folk “have earned the right to have unicorns among us.” While the clarity of the story line occasionally falters, the pictures are simply magical. Using drawings overlaid with paint and photographs, Spalenka’s images often look like Renaissance portraits or still lifes, then like pellucid landscapes or dreamscapes. Each full-page, full-bleed illustration, with text floated over it, contains a fully realized and imagined space: The unicorn is a full-blooded creature with bones and sinew. Satisfyingly gorgeous. (Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1728-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after.


From the Dragon Masters series , Vol. 1

Drake has been selected by the king to serve as a Dragon Master, quite a change for an 8-year-old farmer boy.

The dragons are a secret, and the reason King Roland has them is a mystery, but what is clear is that the Dragon Stone has identified Drake as one of the rare few children who have a special connection with dragons and the ability to serve as a trainer. Drake’s dragon is a long brown creature with, at first, no particular talents that Drake can identify. He calls the dragon Worm. It isn’t long before Drake begins to realize he has a very strong connection with Worm and can share what seem to be his dragon’s thoughts. After one of the other Dragon Masters decides to illicitly take the dragons outside, disaster strikes. The cave they are passing through collapses, blocking the passageway, and then Worm’s special talent becomes evident. The first of a new series of early chapter books, this entry is sure to attract fans. Brief chapters, large print, lots of action, attractive illustrations in every spread, including a maplike panorama, an enviable protagonist—who wouldn’t want to be a Dragon Master?—all combine to make an entertaining read.

With plenty left to be resolved, the next entry will be eagerly sought after. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-64624-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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A potent mixture of magic and monsters that never materializes.


From the Revenge of Magic series , Vol. 1

After 12-year-old Fort’s father is abducted during an alien attack on Washington, D.C., he jumps at the chance to attend a school of magic that is preparing to go to war with the invaders.

Fort is anxious to start his new school, but he finds Oppenheimer School to be nothing like Hogwarts. Instead of a castle with turrets and magical creatures roaming the forest, Fort’s new school is on a military base complete with armed soldiers and high-tech security. Although the school teaches both Healing magic and Destruction magic, Fort is determined to master the latter in order to avenge his father. When he arrives, Fort is given an ultimatum: learn three spells in three days or be sent home. While he quickly makes enemies with the aggressive Destruction students, he also makes important friends. Jia Liang is a master of Healing magic. Rachel, a wielder of Destruction magic, helps Fort fight his battles. And Cyrus, newly transferred from London, uses his clairvoyance to keep everyone out of trouble. While this new take on a magical academy is imaginative, the narrative wanders, spending too much time on bickering, dead ends, and flashbacks. Fort’s indecision is his greatest stumbling block, making him a lackluster leader. An open ending suggests more to come. The book adheres to the white default; Jia is a Chinese immigrant, and Rachel is African-American.

A potent mixture of magic and monsters that never materializes. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8577-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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