Itty-Bitty Kitty Corn by Shannon Hale

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.

Review: Do You Believe in Unicorns? by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Do You Believe in Unicorns by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Do You Believe in Unicorns? by Bethanie Deeney Murguia (9780763694685)

That must be a horse wearing a tall hat, right? It couldn’t be a unicorn in disguise. Perhaps it’s all in how you choose to see things. Maybe the horse is having a bad hair day? It could just like the color red. Yet even when the hat is removed, there’s still a question of whether you the reader believe in unicorns or not. So, do you?

This very simple book has text with a modern vibe that keeps the book firmly rooted in today rather than a mythical world. So the questions become whether young readers believe in unicorns right now, or not. The illustrations are a huge part of the book, particularly when the hat comes off. The horn question remains unanswered thanks to clever formations and shapes behind the animal’s head.

Funny and nicely designed for both horse and unicorn lovers. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

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A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young (InfoSoup)

When Lucy sends away for her 25 cent unicorn, she has big dreams of what it’s going to look like. It is sure to be blue with a pink tail and pink mane. She will ride on him and name him Sparkle. But when the box finally arrives, Sparkle is not what she expected at all. He does love cupcakes, but that’s not all he loves to eat. He also eats underwear, his flower necklace and the tutu Lucy puts on him. She can’t ride him at all and he doesn’t behave at show-and-tell. Lucy decides to return Sparkle, but the man can’t come and get him until the next day. In the meantime, Sparkle turns out to be scared of storms, butterflies love him, and he makes Lucy laugh. Perhaps it’s not important to be the perfect unicorn after all.

I must admit that I expected this book to be overly sweet, rather too sparkly and filled with too much princess and unicorn fluff. However, it’s not that kind of a picture book at all and I can’t resist a book that surprises me this much. Even better, it’s a unicorn book with a “unicorn” that farts, smells and has fleas. In fact, it’s a unicorn book about a goat and a girl who learns to love him. And in the end, I think readers are going to fall for Sparkle too and realize that the idealized unicorn may be very dull compared to one very active goat.

Young’s illustrations are very appealing. She does a mix of large format pages and then more detailed ones that show all of the trouble that Sparkle manages to get into. Lucy imagines herself as a princess, but throughout is clearly a colorful little girl who loves to pretend and imagine. Readers will immediately know that Sparkle is not a unicorn, but will love the fact that he’s a goat with a heart-shaped mark on his side.

A sparkling and clever story about new friends that defy expectations. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

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Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson

When Phoebe skipped a rock (four times!) across a pond, she accidentally hit a unicorn in the nose, distracting the unicorn from gazing at her amazing reflection.  The unicorn was bound to offer Phoebe a wish and though Phoebe tried to wish for more wishes and things like that, she wasn’t allowed to.  So Phoebe wished that the unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, be her best friend.  The two become inseparable, much to Heavenly Nostrils’ dismay at first.  Soon they truly became the best of friends, dealing with bullies in unexpected ways, having slumber parties, and playing games together. 

This friendship between a girl and a unicorn is filled with great humor, including lots of biting sarcasm which helps offset the cuteness factor.  It is not the traditional unicorn and girl relationship either, both of them have unique personalities and sometimes they just don’t get along.  It’s those moments of reality that keeps the relationship honest and makes this a graphic novel to celebrate.

Simpson’s illustrations have strong ties to Calvin & Hobbes.  Readers will immediately find themselves right at home in the world she creates, one where unicorns are real but sheltered by a Shield of Boringness that keeps others from realizing how special the unicorn is.  These plot devices are brilliant and funny.

I brought this book home and my 17 year old immediately rejoiced since she reads the comic online.  So you will have fans in your library for this book already.  Get it on the shelves for kids and into the hands of adults who will also enjoy it immensely.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Brigette Barrager

Released August 26, 2014.

Do you believe in unicorns?  One might expect the main question of this book to be just that, but instead it’s a question of whether unicorns should believe in little girls.  Uni was a normal unicorn in most ways.  She may have had extra sparkly eyes and her mane may be extra luxurious, but she could heal with her horn like the others and make wishes come true too.  But the one thing that made Uni different was that she believed that little girls were actually real!  Her parents just smiled at her when she insisted little girls were real and her friends laughed at her.  But Uni just knew that somewhere in the world was a little girl just for her.  And out in the world, there was.

Rosenthal has written a book with a surprise twist that makes it fresh and radiant.  Using the unicorn as the heart of the book and indisputably real is a delightful way to approach this mythical beast.  Rosenthal writes that both the unicorn and the girl are looking for a friend who is “strong smart wonderful magical.”  The emphasis on that rather than beauty is appreciated, particularly in a book about unicorns. 

Barrager’s art is lush and colorful.  Her digital illustrations feel like pop art with their modern edge.  Showing Uni longing for her little girl by reading books and drawing pictures is a clever and clear way to tie her to the little girls who may be longing for a unicorn.

I’m not a huge unicorn fan and hate drippy books that are too sweet.  Unicorn fans will adore this book and those of us on the lookout for books that are saccharine will be pleasantly surprised.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from ARC received from Random House Children’s Books.

Review: Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

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Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

Goat is disgruntled.  Everything was going just fine and then Unicorn came along.  Goat rides his bike proudly until Unicorn actually flies by.  Goat brought treats for the class and then Unicorn made it rain cupcakes.  Goat was doing great at the dance but Unicorn won first prize.  Goat does some simple magic coin tricks and Unicorn turns things to gold.  It just is not fair.  So Goat is not ready for Unicorn to come up to him when he’s having lunch and talk about how much he loves goat cheese, how he adores cloven hooves, and how jealous he is of Goat’s curved horns.  The book ends with the two deciding to be friends and imagining what they would look like as a superhero team. 

Shea always does comedic writing very nicely with a great sense of timing and books that are ideal for reading aloud thanks to the strong character voices.  Here Goat steals the show despite Unicorn’s more flashy attitude.  His dour attitude is nicely enlivened with humor and his own wry take on life. 

Shea’s art is done in his signature simple yet rather zany style.  Unicorn’s magical traits are portrayed in a flashy, wild way that makes them all the more funny and impressive.  With only a few lines, the mood of both Unicorn and Goat are clearly shown.

Funny and wild, this book proves that the cupcake is always fresher on the other side of the rainbow.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Zombies vs. Unicorns: How Short Stories for Teens Should Be Done!

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Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Before opening the book, I was firmly a Team Zombie type of gal.  Rotting flesh captures my attention a lot more than lovely white horses.  Sick, I know.   But by the end of this anthology of short stories, I’m leaning more towards those lovely and vicious white horses.

Created from a conversation on Holly Black’s and Justine Larbalestier’s blogs, these stories answer the age-old question of whether zombies or unicorns are better.  A group of bestselling authors of teen fiction joined the battle with their short stories.  The book reads in alternating stories.  One zombie, the next unicorn.  I was impressed by the level of the stories in the collection, offering such a range of takes on zombies and unicorns.  This book is sure to fly off of the shelves thanks to the zombies, the unicorns, and the tantalizing authors involved.  Those authors include, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, and Meg Cabot.

Just as with any short story collection, there are some stories that stick with the reader longer.  Carrie Ryan’s Bougainvillea is a zombie story set in a world where the zombies have taken over almost completely.  Iza’s father took her and her mother to the safety of an island where he became dictator and kept the population alive.  The story is about control, heritage, and of course, life and death.   There is a wonderful tone to this story, an anchored feeling that remains even as the zombies emerge.  Another of my favorites is The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund.    Wen saw her cousins slaughtered by a unicorn, now when she sees a captured unicorn at a side show, she is shocked to find herself connecting with it.  She returns the next day, drawn by something and ends up saving a new born unicorn from being killed.  Now she has to figure out what to do with the adorable but deadly creature.   Peterfreund builds a great story effortlessly here, offering a wry tone and another look at her take on killer unicorns.  Scott Westerfeld’s Inoculata offers a zombie tale with a twist.  Here the humans are barricaded against the zombie onslaught again, but something happens that changes everything.  Westerfeld is master of horror mixed with science and that is evident in this story as well.   The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey tells the story of a unicorn who heals but also steals years of life away.  He is an addict, unable to stop killing or shortening lives.  He meets two virgins who bring him deeper into connection with emotions and happiness, but loses both of them.  Now he is seeking a third virgin.  He hopes that this one can either stop his pain altogether or kill him.  It is an achingly beautiful story with a cunning twist. 

A delight of a short story collection.  It turns out it doesn’t matter if Team Zombie or Team Unicorn wins the battle.  The people who really have won are the readers of the stories.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.

Reviewed across the blogosphere with far too many to link to. 

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