cover image Wish on a Unicorn

Wish on a Unicorn

Karen Hesse. Henry Holt & Company, $13.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1572-0

Mags lives in a trailer with her overworked mother, her perpetually hungry little brother Mooch and her retarded sister Hannie. As the oldest, Mags is the responsible one, but when Hannie finds a ratty old stuffed unicorn and says it's magic, Mags almost believes her. The wishes that come true aren't spectacular: Mooch gets a sandwich after wanting something to eat, and Mags gets new clothes--hand-me-downs from her aunt, but there is some kind of magic. The unicorn acts as a catalyst, letting Mags see beyond the humdrum of everyday life and realize how important her family is to her. With colorful regional language (Hannie is ``stubborn as an elbow,'') and clear psychological insight, Hesse's debut ranks with Betsy Byars's Pinballs and Cynthia Voight's Homecoming in describing families surviving as best they can under economic privation. Ages 9-12. (Apr.)