By Kim Childress
OK, I must provide full disclosure here: I was the Zonderkidz book editor who worked with author Jane Yolen on her illustrated adventure titled A Plague of Unicorns—and it was wonderful fun, an honor, and a memorable career experience for me.
Jane and I met through mutual friend Rebecca Kai Dotlich, a poet and picture-book writer who used to be in my writers’ group. Rebeccai and Jane were at and American Library Association I attended, promoting their collaborated book Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-tale Voices with a Twist.
I snuck up behind Rebecca at her booth, and then we hugged and jumped up and down like schoolgirls. OK, we hugged, but we didn’t really jump up and down.
Moments later, she asked, “Kim, have you met my friend Jane?” I turned around to find myself next to Jane Yolen—and in the world of children’s book writers, she’s like major celebrity! One of my favorite books of hers is Owl Moon.
“Why, no,” I said. “Kim Childress, Zonderkidz…” The rest, as they say, is history. (Jane, it was an honor working with you). And with that, here is my review of A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen….
Humor abounds in this middle-grade tale of heroes, unicorns, dukes, and abbeys. It’s a fun, fast read with black-and-white illustrations throughout. Yolen weaves a magical yet believable tale of myth and magic in this charming fantasy.
In the mythical kingdom of Callanshire, James, who is the son of the Duke of Callander, is sent away at age 9 to study at Cranford Abbey. The abbey, struggling to stay financially solvent, plans to make its extraordinary golden Hosannah apples into cider for sale.
Unfortunately, unicorns also love these delicious apples. No matter how the monks try, they cannot get rid of the horned orchard raiders until James summons a singer named Sandy, who might have a way with unicorns.
James is a hero to be emulated. He is curious, brave, and caring. His family and the monks are charming with delightful details. James’ tutor Benedict Cumber is nicknamed “Cumbersome” for his dry delivery of obscure facts, and Alexandria, James’s sister, has eyes “like Spanish steel.”
Though partially set in an abbey, this tale avoids an overt religious message. It does, however, offer a winsome example of how to live life responsibly.