cover image Unicorns! Unicorns!

Unicorns! Unicorns!

Geraldine McCaughrean. Holiday House, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1319-5

This British import, inspired by elements of the Noah's Ark story, takes a fresh look at the unicorn legend with lilting text and radiant watercolors. As Noah summons earth's creatures to the ark, the animals hasten to obey, but the unicorns graciously stop along the way to help others--tortoises afraid to paddle across a pool of water, a deer mired in mud, a butterfly whose wings are waterlogged. Will they make it to the ark in time? As the winds pick up and the waters rise, McCaughrean (A Pack of Lies) heightens the suspense, making the climactic moment when, unheard above the storm, the unicorns ""beat upon the planks with their snow-white hooves"" all the more heartbreaking. Her poetic prose describes the heroic creatures (""their manes ran down like milk"") as the images materialize in Windham's (Read Me a Story) exquisite watercolors. In paintings that range from expansive double-page vistas to small insets and occasional borders (e.g., the pairs of animals making their way to the ark), she makes a smooth transition from the textured reds, browns and greens of land and ark, to the watery blues, grays and aquas of the sea. Author and artist join in a crowning conclusion: grieving Noah and his animal passengers discover that the unicorns live on in the sea's ""green translucent waves with arching manes and prancing hooves of foam""--even young disbelievers may view the ocean anew after this spellbinding tale. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)