A young princess discovers her true power in a colorfully illustrated self-esteem–building narrative for children who don’t feel like they fit in.
Princess Safiya is bored by her classes on proper behavior and unsure of her place in her blended family. She’s filled with contradictory emotions: She’s saddened by the death of her mother, Lilia, and resentful about her father Cedric’s quick remarriage. She loves her older sister Cissy but feels abandoned by her due to Cissy’s focus on her upcoming wedding. She pretends to hate her little half brother, Sebastian, but “love[s] making him giggle with tickles and playing hide and seek.” She’s angry at her stepmother, Zerelda, but sympathizes with her because “she knew [her] marriage was out of convenience and not love.” (Safiya and her older siblings are darker skinned, and Cedric, Zerelda, and Sebastian appear white.) To escape these confusing feelings, Safiya decides to run away, but she falls asleep before she can do so. In her dream, her guide is a talking unicorn named Galaxy, who takes the young runaway on a grand adventure. They travel inside a whale to the unicorn’s home, where Safiya blossoms into her true self by learning to believe in her inner and outer beauty. Back home, she’s able to speak the “heart of the truth” and weave her fragmented family together. Overall, Safiya’s story, the first in a series, is a heartfelt one, and young readers will recognize many of the complications and contradictions in her life. Her longing to feel connected to her family, as depicted by debut author Casey, is particularly touching, as is her almost unwilling compassion for her father and stepmother, even when their choices adversely affect her. The wonder of Galaxy’s magical home is charmingly vivid, although readers may wish that the story spent more time there and provided more detail about its whimsical inhabitants. The latter are enticingly portrayed in Nkomo’s complex, apparently anime-inspired illustrations, but they’re almost absent from the text.
An empowering and skillfully illustrated story of self-acceptance.