________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 7 . . . . October 14, 2011


Go Away, Unicorn!

Emily Mullock.
Vancouver, BC: McKellar & Martin, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-9782553-7-4.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Megan Sorenson.

*** /4



Alice met the unicorn at her 10th birthday party in the park.

He had not been invited.

The unicorn had come because he’d smelled cake (his most favourite food).

He stayed because he’d seen Alice.
Now, you have to be pretty dumb to think that Alice was a unicorn just because of her shiny, gold party hat.

But unicorns can be pretty dumb.

Most girls would be over the moon if a sparkly unicorn BFF appeared on their birthday, but Alice is far from impressed. The fact is that Alice is anything but a girly girl: she’s not a fan of glitter; the colour pink makes her want to gag; and she has absolutely no use at all for a unicorn. To her great chagrin, one of these magical creatures takes a decided fancy to her, and Alice simply cannot get him to go away and leave her alone! As it turns out, however, unicorns have a special brand of persistence that can work its way into the most resistant of hearts. While the themes of difference, acceptance, forgiveness, and friendship that the story explores are certainly standard fare in children’s literature, Mullock manages to give them a unique twist in this sweet and quirky tale.

      Even at first glance, it is apparent that this is a title with considerable shelf appeal. Not only is the story’s premise intriguing, but the glittery cover alone will keep this book flying off library shelves. In addition, Mullock’s text is full of clever humour that both children and adults will appreciate. For instance, readers will chuckle at the unicorn’s obliviousness and Alice’s growing exasperation when she tries to discourage her admirer by pointing out that he is technically an imaginary creature, only to find that the news actually makes him “feel more special.” Mullock tells her story in pithy prose that generally lends itself well to being read aloud. One interesting feature is that the text relies heavily upon printer’s ornaments to create breaks in the narrative. Unfortunately, these divisions frequently seem unnecessary and even slightly jarring, as they interrupt the easy flow of the text.

      The text’s constant refrain of “Go away, unicorn” seems somewhat simplistic alongside the far more sophisticated language and reasoning that Alice employs elsewhere in the book, but this repetition does offer a good opportunity for participation during storytime. Children will enjoy chanting along and guessing whether or not the unicorn will finally take the hint. internal art At the same time, Mullock introduces surprising variations within this repetitive structure that keep her narrative fresh and interesting, such as the fact that Alice’s attempted rebuffs are foiled first by the unicorn’s optimism, then by his inattentiveness, and finally by his downright sneakiness.

     Go Away, Unicorn! is artistically strong, and its large and brightly coloured illustrations are well suited to a large group storytime setting. Mullock starts off by making effective use of the book’s endpapers, enticing readers into her story with a mysterious trail of hoofprints, cake crumbs, and discarded birthday candles. Her background in animation can be clearly seen in the modern cartoonish style of the book’s digitally produced art, a style that will certainly capture the attention of young readers. Not only do the illustrations pair well with the bright and bubbly subject matter of the narrative, but they also provide further insight into the growing relationship between the two main characters. Discerning readers will be sure to notice some early pictorial hints that Alice may be enjoying the unicorn’s company more than she is willing to admit.

     The text’s conclusion verges on the saccharine; however, with its gentle mockery of girly girl stereotypes, Go Away, Unicorn! will appeal to a broader audience than just those devoted fans of fairies, princesses, and all things pink. This debut book by Mullock offers a funny and enjoyable read for families and storytime groups.


Megan Sorenson is an MLIS student at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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