cover image The Dragon and the Unicorn

The Dragon and the Unicorn

Lynne Cherry. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-224193-3

Lavish illustrations are the high point of this wordy eco-fable. In an ancient forest, Valerio the dragon and Allegra the unicorn live ``in harmony with the land and all the other creatures"" until humans begin to chop down trees to build a castle for King Orlando. When the king's daughter, Arianna, wanders into their domain, the unicorn teaches her the ""wisdom"" contained in the forest. The child, reunited with her father, inspires him to ``learn to love and respect'' the forest, which is henceforth preserved. While the story is somewhat stiff, Cherry's (The Armadillo from Amarillo) luxuriant watercolors beckon the reader to share her romantic vision of wilderness. Small but sumptuous tableaux of mythical creatures in a medieval forest are set within splendid borders of lacy vines and Florentine-like patterns inspired by foliage. Entwined in these borders, cameos of characters, flora and fauna suggest the richness and complexity of the woodland, supplying a subtlety and lyricism missing from the text. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)