Geraldine McCaughrean. Illustrated by Sophie Windham.
Kindergarten - grade 3 / Ages 5 - 8.
"Wait a little longer, dear," said Noah's wife. "The best beasts of all are not aboard yet: the Unicorns."This retelling of the legend of what happened to the mythical beasts, the Unicorns, gives a different perspective to the story of Noah's Ark. Some accounts leave the impression that the playful Unicorns were too silly to heed Noah's invitation to board the ark. Winner of the 1987 Whitbread Children's Award, the 1994 Beefeater's Children's Novel Award and the Carnegie Medal, Geraldine McCaughrean draws the reader through the tale by continuously raising the suspense of whether the Unicorns will or will not board in time. The prose cleverly explains the reasons for their delay in heeding Noah's summons. The conclusion depicts a pleasant surprise for the grieving Noah and his passengers when the rain subsides and they notice the sea.
"And if we go without them" said his sons, "the world will lose its Unicorns for ever more."
Stories of mythical creatures hold a magic for young readers. Told against the setting of the famous Bible story, the urgency of the Unicorns to hurry aboard is clearly depicted through the author's clever repetition of the phrase, "Unicorns! Unicorns! Come aboard." The author's style creates growing suspense and a fresh new look at these heroic creatures as the unicorns graciously assist others, such as the deer mired in mud and the butterfly whose wings have become waterlogged.
The expressive watercolour paintings by Sophie Windham include double-page spreads and borders of trees, animals and insects. The fate of the Unicorn has a heightened impact as both author and illustrator combine their mediums of word and art to arrive at the story's conclusion. Young readers will find this version of the Unicorn legend appealing and definitely magical.
Janice Foster is teacher-librarian at Oakenwald School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - MARCH 13, 1998.
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