Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale, illustrated by Leuyen Pham (9781419750915)
Kitty thinks she might be a unicorn. She puts a horn on her head and feels wonderfully unicorny. But the others don’t see her that way. Parakeet and Gecko remind her that she is a cat. But Kitty continues to be a unicorn with hooves and a horn. She even says “Neigh!” Still, Parakeet and Gecko don’t see her as anything but a kitten. When a real unicorn arrives, Kitty flops away, dejected that she can’t be anything like the shining unicorn in front of her. But the unicorn surprises Kitty with his own secret, that he sees himself as a Kitty-Corn. Suddenly Kitty realizes that she too is a Kitty-Corn and has a new friend who supports her and sees her that way too.
What starts out with dressing up and pretending becomes something much deeper in this book that explores identity and the right to be who you are. Kitty faces real derision from Parakeet and Gecko, who live on the margins of the page and comment on who Kitty thinks she is. They are rude and horrible, speaking to Kitty as if they are the only ones who can define who she is. With the arrival of Unicorn, the book changes to one of allyship and friendship.
Pham’s illustrations play into the fuzzy and sweet start of the story. Unicorn’s arrival is stunning, hooves first and then the full reveal. When he goes on to tell the truth about himself, Pham’s illustrations stay just as bright and pink and purple as before. The change happens not in the world around them, but in the magic of their connection.
A brilliant and crafty look at unicorns, kitty-corns and identity. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Abrams.