cover image The Eyes of the Unicorn

The Eyes of the Unicorn

Teresa Bateman, Author, Greg Spalenka, Illustrator , illus. by Greg Spalenka. Holiday $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1728-5

In contrast to Bateman's light-hearted Keeper of Soles , this fairy tale comes across as solemn and high-minded. In it, a servant girl helps a unicorn evade slaughter by her former playmate, the duke's son. Newcomer Spalenka's gaudy, digitally manipulated illustrations, however, compete for readers' attention, with distracting combinations of superimposed medieval ornaments, photographs of some characters (specifically of Tanisa, the servant girl), painted still lifes and other elements. The text explains that Tanisa and the duke's son, Chris, have grown apart, and that Chris's once-pure heart has been twisted by his power-hungry father. The scenes jump from one to the next, in a few places resembling stills in a book adaptation of a movie. The climax feels medicinal: the unicorn, eluding the whole court, finds refuge in Tanisa's lap, but Chris aims his arrow at it. The unicorn first heals the wound Chris accidentally inflicts on Tanisa, then tenderly places his horn on Chris's heart. “When Chris opened his eyes again they were filled with the joy [Tanisa] remembered from when they were children.” The story's message is lost in the unicorn magic, faux courtly prose (“on the morrow she would rest”) and superficial images. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)