Creature Feature: Unicorns

The #MiddleGradeMania continues! Gather your maidens and library cards. Today, we’re searching the middle-grade shelves for literature’s most noble beast. Behold, the majestic unicorn!

Aquicorn Cove, by Katie O’Neill and illustrated by the author

Gorgeous pastel-colored artwork guides readers between day, night, and underwater in this enchanting graphic novel where a girl discovers a colony of aquatic unicorns near her coastal village.

Behind the Legend: Unicorns, by Erin Peabody and illustrated by Jomike Tejido

Citing scholarly documents and sacred texts, centuries-old remedies and modern-day fiction, Peabody tracks the “one-horned wonder”—and our ever-waffling belief in it.

The Last Unicorn,by Peter S. Beagle and Peter B. Gillis and illustrated by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon

Yes, this selection technically targets older readers, but who among us wasn’t drawn to this classic as a kid? Personally, I was obsessed with the creepy animated movie at a very young age and still get chills when I think about that fire bull. This graphic adaptation is the perfect way to mesmerize/scar a new generation of children.

Louie Lets Loose! by Rachel Hamilton and illustrated by Oscar Armelles

Coming to the Big Apple with stars in his eyes and the requisite relentless optimism, a stagestruck unicorn enrolls in the New York School for the Performing Arts. Oversize, highlighted words printed in red help support new or struggling readers, who will get an additional boost from the text’s uni-corny jokes and illustrations.

The Magical Unicorn Society: Official Handbook, by Selwyn E. Phipps and illustrated by Harry Goldhawk and others

This lovely handbook is all about unicorns and the magic of these mythical creatures. Literally everything one might be curious about: where they come from, how to find one, what to feed them, stories and legends about them, how to communicate with unicorns, and much more.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn series, by Dana Simpson

If you like your unicorns with a little more snark, look no further than the graphic novels starring Phoebe and her not-so-imaginary unicorn friend, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. Aptly compared to Calvin and Hobbes, it has a joke-a-day format with recurring themes; a thin veneer of cynicism; and gentle, winning humor. You can find this delightful duo in Unicorn on a Roll (2015) and Unicorn vs. Goblins (2016), to name a couple.

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training, by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater and illustrated by Maggie Stiefvater

Regent Maximus, an incredibly anxious unicorn, is competing in the prestigious Triple Trident—if he can be coaxed out of his stall. Magical-creature-enthusiast Pip Bartlett endeavors to help him overcome his hilarious phobias (“I’ll knock my horn on the bar and it will fall off!”) while sussing out who is trying to sabotage the competition.

 The Truth about Unicorns, by James Cross Giblin and illustrated by Michael McDermott

Ranging from ancient Greece and China to medieval Europe, and from Hindu myth and the Bible to contemporary T-shirts and greeting cards, Giblin traces the history of belief about the fabulous unicorn and its enduring hold on the human imagination. As appropriate for classes on myth, art, and history as it is for the dreamer who wishes to pore over it alone.

The Unicorn in the Barn, by Jacqueline K. Ogburn and illustrated by Rebecca Green

Eric Harper is let in on a wonderful secret after he sees a unicorn enter his veterinarian neighbor’s barn: Dr. B treats magical creatures in addition to regular ones. After promising to stay silent on that score, Eric excitedly accepts a position helping at the clinic, where he learns much about animals, himself, and some of life’s harder lessons.

 The Unicorn Quest, by Kamilla Benko

Once upon a time, in the world of Arden, magic thrived and unicorns roamed—until a war claimed all unicorns, save one. Hundreds of years later, two sisters find their way to this Narnia-like world, but when Sophie disappears, it’s up to 11-year-old Claire to bring her sister home. Direct fans to the sequel, Secret in the Stone (2018).

Wonder Light: Unicorns of the Mist, by R. R. Russell

Blamed for causing a terrible accident, Twig has been sent to Island Ranch, a home for troubled girls on a desolate, misty island. There she and the other girls care for the ranch’s ponies, and the unexpected arrival of a newborn unicorn gives Twig a newfound sense of purpose.

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About the Author:

Julia Smith is an associate editor for Books for Youth at Booklist. She is a graduate of the MLIS program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is also trained in aerial acrobatics. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaKate32.

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