Review by Elizabeth Leung
Tundra, Penguin Random House, September 2019
32 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-0-73526-543-1
Ages 3-7, Grades Pre K-2
Picture Book, Fantasy
It’s magical, majestic, and better than horses: Cale Atkinson has the answers to all the questions you’ve ever had about unicorns. Brought to you by today’s top unicorn scientists, including Professor Glitter Pants—and lab assistant Pete—Unicorns 101 is your introductory course to all things unicornius scientificus, such as biology, habitat, and history.
I’ll be the first to admit that unicorns aren’t my thing, but Atkinson still drew me into the book with his loving satire of unicorn clichés and children’s information books. Presented in the style of an information book, it is more about the reader’s journey than those of Professor Glitter Pants and his associates. The tongue-in-cheek humour and endless supply of puns made me want to share each joke with someone else and, when I did, they always chuckled, unicorn enthusiast or not. Atkinson isn’t afraid to address the reader directly, asking them to read the pictures along with the words to find hiding unicorns or identify different uses for a unicorn’s horn. The design of the book is appropriately rainbow-themed, but not overwhelmingly so. Each section is colour coded, and the thick lines act as both borders and guidelines for the eyes to easily move across each spread.
At the end of the ten sections, the reader earns a diploma and becomes a certified unicorn scientist themselves. This is a must have for any young unicorn lovers as well as parents and guardians who want to add a different kind of book to their story time selection.
Elizabeth Leung is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature Program at UBC. In addition to editing Young Adulting, she is a teaching assistant for introduction to writing comics and is currently writing a middle grade space opera about sentient AI and teenagers with dyslexia. Follow her on twitter @ezlabeth.