by Christina Van Starkenburg
Source: Island Grandparent
Originally Published: August 2019
There’s something about unicorns, mermaids and fairies that captures our collective imagination. I was at a party recently, and there was a lady there who was painting the children’s faces. Soon there were unicorns galloping around everywhere you looked.
So it’s no real surprise that they turn up all the time in our stories. But what do we really know about unicorns? Children’s authors Cale Atkinson and Bethanie Deeney Murguia strive to answer some of our burning questions about these illusive creatures.
Kate Pugsley and Liz Kessler focus on mermaids and what we can learn from these mysterious sea creatures about confidence and self-acceptance. Finally, Sophie Kinsella helps us learn more about the training fairies go through before they are allowed to use their magic in our high-tech world.
Regardless of whether your children are interested in mermaids, fairies or unicorns, here are a few stories about finding the fantastical in the mundane that will help add some magic to their lives this summer.
Do You Believe in Unicorns? by Bethanie Deeney Murguia (Candlewick, 2018) is a conversation between the narrator and an unseen and unheard companion about whether or not they are looking at a horse in a red hat or a unicorn in disguise. The narrator is adamant it is in fact a horse. That is, they are convinced it is a horse until the takes off its hat and things become much more confusing.
The fun and creative pictures will cause you to second guess what you see—on every single page. And, like the story’s narrator, you and your kids will wonder if you are looking at a unicorn or a horse in disguise. For ages 3 to 7.
Unicorns are more than just masters of disguise, and many children will have questions about these gorgeous creatures. For these questions, look no further that Cale Atkinson’s book Unicorns 101 (Tundra, 2019). Atkinson assures his readers that unicorns are not only “magical,” “majestic,” and “better than horses,” they are also fantastically fun on camping trips and “30 to 67 hamsters tall.”
Filled with bold, bright, and glittery images, this scientific book on unicorns will tell your child everything they could possibly want to know about these magnificent creatures. For example, while you will never see one buying something from a bake sale, you will find out what activities they use their horns for, how they decorate their houses, and who was the first unicorn to visit Pluto. For ages 3 to 7.
Kate Pugsley’s Mermaid Dreams (Tundra, 2019) is a new take on the eternal theme of making friends. Maya and her family head to the beach for some summer fun, but when they arrive her mother and father tell her they want to relax instead of play. After settling into their lounge chairs they tell Maya to go and play with the other kids.
But, Maya doesn’t know what to say. She watches the kids from the safety of her turtle floaty as she considers how to approach them. While she ponders this, she ends up falling asleep and waking up in the middle of the ocean. Mermaid Maya and her turtle dive down to the coral reef below. There among the sea weed and coral, she plays hide-and-seek with another mermaid. For ages 3 to 7.
Half-mermaid, half-girl Emily Windsnap is back in her eighth novel: Emily Windsnap and the Pirate Prince by Liz Kessler (Candlewick, 2019). In her latest adventure Emily is heading home via cruise ship with her mother and boyfriend Aaron, while her father and best friend Shona took Neptune’s chariot.
The trip has barely begun when they’re boarded by pirates and Aaron is kidnapped by the pirate king’s oldest son. To save him, Emily lets herself get kidnapped by the younger son, and they set off to find Neptune’s treasure. Along the way Emily learns the importance of being true to herself and not letting others define her. For ages 8 to 12.
Of course, magic isn’t always the best way to solve problems as Ella discovers in Fairy in Waiting by Sophie Kinsella and illustrated by Marta Kissi (Puffin, 2019). Ella’s mother, aunt and grandmother are fairies. One day Ella will be one too.
Right now, she’s just a fairy in waiting, but that doesn’t stop her from helping her mother when her mom’s spells go wrong, or from attempting to do magic herself. These hilarious stories are interspersed with some delightful pictures that help you see just how wrong the spells can go sometimes. For ages 7 to 10.
So the next time your children tell you they are bored, feel free to send them on an adventure to try and spot unicorns, make magic, or play with mermaids. No beach or party required.
Christina Van Starkenburg is a freelance writer and mother of two young boys. You can read about their adventures at thebookandbaby.com.
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