Not Quite Narwhal (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is the lovely and touching Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima, a story about a little “narwhal” learning about himself and the meaning of family.

Kelp was born under the ocean, but isn’t quite like the other narwhals: his tusk isn’t as long, and he’s not quite as strong a swimmer. Still, he loves his home and his friends, who always make him feel safe and loved. But one day, a strong current sweeps Kelp away from his home. He ends up near an island, where he sees a fabulous creature that looks just like him! He learns that the animal is called a unicorn, and he is one too! The unicorns welcome him gladly, and teach him more about being a unicorn. Yet while Kelp is happy to be with unicorns like him, he misses his narwhal friends in the ocean. Kelp is caught between two worlds – which should he choose?

We LOVED this one. The story was wonderfully sweet, and had a lot of great humor. The illustrations are just adorable, full of colors and charming characters that JJ went crazy over, and the length is perfect. But best of all is the message: there’s nothing wrong with being different, even from your own family. Kelp’s experiences with the narwhals and unicorns can especially be read as a touching allegory for being LGBTQ or adopted, with both communities loving him, even his connection to each bringing the two groups together to bond. It’s a great way to show children that with supportive friends and family, being different can be the very thing that makes you special. It’s a wonderful story wonderfully told, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

A Unicorn Named Sparkle (Amy Young)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young, a silly yet sweet story of friendship, responsibility, and the bond between a girl and her unicorn.

Lucy finds the advertisement – 25¢ for a unicorn – and dashes off to mail in her quarter. While she waits for her new friend to arrive, she decides to name him Sparkle, and plans all the amazing things they’ll do: going for rides, braiding his pink mane, and taking him to show and tell. But when Sparkle arrives, he’s not quite what Lucy had imagined. He’s smaller, for one; he smells and has fleas for another. He won’t let her ride him, and he eats the flowers and tutu she puts on him. Frustrated, she decides to send her troublesome pet back… but will she have the heart to say goodbye?

This was a great little story! It’s a funny tale on the surface (Sparkle is, quite obviously, a goat), but it carries a great message about pet ownership and friendship in general: when Sparkle doesn’t live up to Lucy’s idealization of a “unicorn,” she is quick to dismiss him. However, after forming a bond with him, finding the things she likes about him, and ultimately seeing how broken-hearted he is to be sent away, she realizes that even though he’s not perfect, Sparkle loves her and she loves him. It’s a great metaphor about being a good friend despite imperfections, and being responsible for creatures you’ve promised to care for, and I loved it. The illustrations are charming and funny, the length is great, and JJ adored it. All in all a winner, especially for those who would enjoy a different sort of unicorn story. Baby Bookworm approved!

Uni The Unicorn (Amy Krouse Rosenthal)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Uni The Unicorn, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Brigette Barrager, the story of a unicorn, a girl, and belief.

Uni the unicorn is like all the other unicorns: flowing mane, twinkling purple eyes, magical powers. But there is one thing that makes Uni different: she believes in little girls. All the other unicorns mock her, but Uni just knows that there is a special little girl out there. A little girl who, like her, looks to the night sky and dreams of a special friend.

Oh, boy. This is a pretty popular book, so I’m going to get some people who disagree, but we didn’t love it. There is some gorgeously colorful art, flipping the trope and having a unicorn believe in people was cool, and the length is good, but for positives, that was it for us.

In the meantime, the book lacks a satisfying conclusion. It bills itself as “A Story About Believing,” so I can understand why the author chose to never have Uni and her friend meet, but it’s a choice that ends the story rather abruptly. Furthermore, the book is extremely gendered. Uni believes in little girls, and only little girls. Apparently, little boys and unicorns are not meant to have special friendships. And, uncomfortably, Uni only seems to believe in little white girls. Her dream friend is blonde and blue-eyed, and all the drawings of little girls that Uni makes or looks at in books are light-skinned. In fact, the only time children of color make an appearance is as villains, taunting the little girl for believing in unicorns. So as far as gender and race representation, this one misses the mark, to say the least.

We had heard good things about this book and were looking forward to it, but it honestly just left me underwhelmed and slightly troubled. Even JJ didn’t seem very interested beyond our initial read-through. If you have a daughter who loves unicorns (and, again, only a daughter), this could be a fun read, but otherwise, not one we would recommend.