Nobody Rides the Unicorn

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Impressionistic artwork creates a dreamy, surreal backdrop for this story of an orphan girl who beguiles a unicorn. The king of Joppardy learns from Doctor Slythe that he must obtain the horn of a unicorn in order to protect him from harm. The two deceptively persuade a waif named Zoe--"nobody's child"--to lure a unicorn with her gentle voice, but when she learns of the king's plans, she sets the unicorn free and is banished from the kingdom. She then makes her way to the "secret valley of the unicorns," where her kindness is rewarded. Though Mitchell's (Maudie and the Green Children) prose is pedestrian in places, particularly Zoe's song to the unicorn ("His mind is peaceful as the grass./ He is the loveliest one of all/ And he lives behind the waterfall"), it also contains flashes of pure poetry ("The air was torn by trumpets," signals the legendary beast's capture). It's Lambert's (Bedtime) otherworldly illustrations that lift the book to a higher level. His sophisticated use of mist-filtered light and shadow, and his seamless blend of old-world elegance and hints of modern life, make this a cautionary tale with a sense of immediacy (a red car winds its way up to a medieval castle; the heroine and king wear contemporary clothing). Mysterious visual themes are interwoven; a giraffe and a boatman with four geese make intermittent appearances. The enigmatic, lush imagery will haunt readers long after the somewhat forgettable story has ended. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
One senses a return to the fairy tales of old, designed to frighten the young in this tale of a wicked king and a young girl. The king, afraid of being poisoned, is advised to eat only with a knife, fork and spoon made from a unicorn's horn to protect himself. A unicorn can only be caught by "a quiet young girl with a gentle voice." Zoe, a local beggar girl, fits the description, and is summoned to the castle and given the task of capturing a unicorn. "Excited and scared," Zoe goes into the forest with the king and his advisor and sings a song about unicorns that she has learned in her dreams. Suddenly a unicorn appears and the king's men attack it, injure it and then lead it back to the castle. Zoe is angry at being used to capture such a magnificent beast. She decides to go to the castle and set the unicorn free. When the king learns of Zoe's actions, he banishes her from the kingdom. Zoe, alone, decides to search for the unicorn of which her song says, "lives behind the waterfall." When she reaches the waterfall, she is drawn into it, falling until she reaches a cave. The cave contains a valley of unicorns. Zoe finds her unicorn, and they ride off together. The ethereally beautiful, but dark illustrations cannot rectify the hinted evil in this story. Poor Zoe is described as nobody's child, living alone when she is summoned by the king. Then, she goes off in the woods alone with two men and witnesses a beautiful unicorn being wounded by spears and hounds. Even when she escapes, she is doomed to a unknown life, alone on the back of a unicorn. The suspense in the story seems never to be resolved on the side of goodness. Caution should, therefore, be used in buying this book for a youngchild. 2000, Arthur A. Levine Books, Ages 5 to 7, $16.95. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger —Children's Literature
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-In this pleasantly written story, a poor orphan is called before the King of Joppardy and commanded to go to the forest and sing to attract a unicorn. Zoe doesn't realize that the king and his advisor, the cunning Doctor Slythe, plan to kill the creature in order to make a goblet and eating utensils from its horn. When Zoe realizes that she has been tricked, she sets the animal free. The king then banishes her and demands that "no one in Joppardy shall speak to this little nobody!" Remembering the words to a song that she had heard in her dreams, she searches for and finds the home of the unicorns, where her friend greets her and invites "Nobody" to climb on his back and enter this secret valley. The fascination with unicorns, which is so prevalent in fantasy, is successfully captured through the illustrations and text, and Zoe's song/poem is rich in imagery. There is a misty quality to the soft-edged artwork. Muted colors and the almost fuzzy, cottony look of the unicorn help to create a mythical, mystical atmosphere. The varied perspectives from extreme close-ups to panoramic views effectively create varied moods. A fine introduction to fantasy.-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This modern fairy tale tells the story of a fearful and paranoid king who summons the gentlest girl in the kingdom to trap a unicorn in order to kill it for his own selfish purposes. The king of Joppardy, convinced that his enemies are out to poison him, follows the advice of his councilor Doctor Slythe, who tells the king that there is only one solution—the king must drink from a goblet and eat with utensils made from a unicorn's horn. The nefarious Slythe, dressed all in black and looking thoroughly evil, also advises the king that there is only one way to catch the elusive unicorn—a quiet young girl with a gentle voice must call to it. Zoe, the quietest girl in the land, and an orphan who is considered a nobody, is sent for and unsuspectingly invites the unicorn into the open. All of a sudden, hunters and hunting dogs intrude upon the idyllic scene and capture the beautiful beast. Zoe, furious that she's been deceived and determined to make it right, sneaks into the palace gardens and frees the animal. Incensed that the little girl has bested him, the king banishes her. But Zoe finds her way into the secret valley of the unicorns: a magical and welcoming land that certainly will be more of a home to her than Joppardy ever was. Beautiful, soft illustrations mostly in earth colors, but interjected with jewel tones and interesting design make this a visually compelling book. Details in the illustrations—an animal hidden in the bush, topiaries in the shape of whales—encourage the reader to look again and again at the enticing pictures. One jarring, anachronistic note, though—on the opening page, the illustration shows a car on the road tothemedieval-looking palace, marring the timeless, otherworldly feel of the book. And the name of the kingdom ineluctably makes one think of the popular game show. Despite these minor quibbles, this will certainly please the unicorn crowd and will be a popular read-aloud. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760767917
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/2004
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 389,403
  • Product dimensions: 10.14 (w) x 10.14 (h) x 0.35 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 21, 2009

    Beautiful Story

    A friend suggested this book to me because the main character has the same name as my daughter. When I picked up the book, I didn't know what to expect, but it was beautifully written, and the illustrations are wonderful. I like the storyline, and the "lesson" was given in a lowkey manner. This is a great book, and it is made even more wonderful by the fact that it has my daughter's name in it.

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