“ Author: Michael Morpurgo / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 04 September 2006 / Genre: Adventure Stories / Subcategory: Children's Fiction / Publisher: Walker Books Ltd / Title: I Believe in Unicorns / ISBN 13: 9781406302042 / ISBN 10: 1406302042 / Alternative EAN: 9781844281466 „
I Believe in Unicorns wasn't at all what I was expecting it to be. I thought it was going to be a fairy story set in a magical realm. It is, however, a magical tale of a different kind. The setting of a library also means something to me (I work in one), so I was definitely hooked from the beginning to the end.
Written by the talented, award winning author Michael Morpurgo, I Believe in Unicorns is a beautiful story book. It is illustrated by the equally talented Gary Blythe. Both have great track records for producing excellent books, so I was expecting great things from this collaboration. Thankfully I was not disappointed.
It is impossible to really review this book without giving away certain plot details, so if you really want to find out for yourself I wouldn't read any further and just take my word for it that this is a book that any child would love. Morpurgo's text is as always perfectly written and Blythe's watercolour, slightly sketchy illustrations really bring his words to life.
I Believe in Unicorns was originally written as a short story that was published in the Sunday Times. It was then expanded into a short, but involved story set in a war torn town in eastern Europe. The intended age of the reader it is aimed at is seven years upwards. I would say that they may be a little low because anyone very young may find the vocabulary a little difficult in places. The subject matter is also not for the really young as it deals with war and does get a little sad at times. Thankfully the sad bits are short and to the point. The succinctness of Morpurgo's text also means that you don't have to wait too long before something more positive happens. He uses short sentences which are pretty good for younger readers who are just gaining confidence in their abilities.
The main character is an eight year old boy called Tomas. Tomas is an outdoors sort of boy who can think of nothing worse than being inside a library, when he could be playing in the fresh air. He hates school, books and reading, so when he is forced to go to the library he is not very happy at all! But....once there he sees one of the children's librarians reading a story. What really gets his attention is the fact that she is reading while sitting on the back of a model unicorn. The Unicorn Lady tells wonderful stories that weave pictures of faraway places and magical things. Despite himself Tomas gets drawn into the world of the books and even ends up becoming a story teller himself.
It is when war breaks out that the story takes a more menacing turn! It actually gets quite sad, but there is a happy ending of sorts (not that I'm going to give that away), so you can reassure your child that the traumas don't last long! As the war breaks out, the inevitable happens and the library gets torched by invading soldiers. The library burns and it is a race against time to get the books out of the building and save them from destruction. The children rescue the books they love so much and keep them safe until the war is over. But...what happens to the unicorn? You'll have to read the book yourself and find out!
I Believe in Unicorns is a top class read for children and adults alike. It will make you think, make you smile and, at times, maybe make you cry too. It is long enough to allow you to get into the story, but still short enough to keep a younger reader's interest. It deals with issues that will appeal to older children and adults yet is still light enough to me safe for younger eyes and minds. It is an excellent and well crafted fictional story that could theoretically have some basis in fact - I'm sure there were many libraries that got destroyed and many books that got burned during the course of the Second World War.
Once again Michael Morpurgo has delivered the goods. He has produced another excellent story about children living through the war years. He handles the issues raised sensitively and, teamed with the colourful and emotive illustrations, has written a captivating and interesting children's book. I am positive that many children will identify with Tomas and will empathise with him as he goes on his journey into the world of books and stories.
Walker Books Ltd
My copy came from the library (but there was no unicorn) but it can still be purchased on Amazon either just as a book, or as part of a book and CD pack.