Kids Fantasy

Art, Magic, and Unicorns: An Interview With The Unicorn QuestAuthor Kamilla Benko

The Unicorn Quest

The Unicorn Quest

Hardcover $16.99

The Unicorn Quest

Kamilla Benko

In Stock Online

Hardcover $16.99

Just Right Reads is a series hosted by Kamilla Benko, children’s book editor and author of the The Unicorn Quest, featuring newly released middle grade books and Q&As with your favorite authors!

Just Right Reads is a series hosted by Kamilla Benko, children’s book editor and author of the The Unicorn Quest, featuring newly released middle grade books and Q&As with your favorite authors!

Today is a special installment of Just Right Reads, as Kamilla takes a turn answering questions from special guest host, Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall, Liesl & Po, and The Curiosity House series. Lauren and Kamilla discuss The Unicorn Quest, where 11-year-old Claire Martinson still worries about her older sister Sophie, who battled a mysterious illness last year. But things are back to normal as they move into Windermere Manor…until the sisters climb a strange ladder in a fireplace and enter Arden—a land of magic teetering on the brink of war.

The Shrunken Head (Curiosity House Series #1)

The Shrunken Head (Curiosity House Series #1)

Paperback $6.99

The Shrunken Head (Curiosity House Series #1)

Lauren Oliver , Benjamin Lacombe , H. C. Chester

In Stock Online

Paperback $6.99

The Unicorn Quest features two sisters, Sophie, the older sister who is brave and adventurous, while Claire, the younger sister, would rather stay home and paint. Which one is most like you?

The Unicorn Quest features two sisters, Sophie, the older sister who is brave and adventurous, while Claire, the younger sister, would rather stay home and paint. Which one is most like you?

Is it cheating to say they’re both like me? Oh well, even if it is cheating, that’s my answer! Like Sophie, I am the oldest sibling in my family, and if you asked my brother and sister, they would say I’m pretty bossy (just as Claire would say the same about Sophie.) I love to travel and if I’m scared of doing something, I will almost always choose to do it. And that’s where I start intersecting with Claire, because like Claire, I’m scared of many things (heights, centipedes, and blank pages). I like to say that if Claire and I were sorted into Hogwarts houses, we would be Gryffindors, but in the way Neville Longbottom is a Gryffindor. We might not seem outwardly brave like Harry Potter or Sophie, but we will always make the choice to be brave in the end—especially if it is to help our family and friends.

First Test (Protector of the Small Series #1)

First Test (Protector of the Small Series #1)

Paperback $9.99

First Test (Protector of the Small Series #1)

Tamora Pierce

In Stock Online

Paperback $9.99

So you have siblings! The dynamic between the sisters was one of my favorite parts of The Unicorn Quest. It felt like a true, lived experience. Do you have a sister of your own?

So you have siblings! The dynamic between the sisters was one of my favorite parts of The Unicorn Quest. It felt like a true, lived experience. Do you have a sister of your own?

I do! I have a sister seven years younger than me, and a brother who is eleven years younger. Both of them were extremely helpful while I wrote The Unicorn Quest, reading draft after draft, giving suggestions, and also providing plenty of realistic sibling banter. But on a more serious note, my sister was born with a complicated medical condition, and for a while in our childhood, my family had no idea what it was, or what we could do to help her. We are very fortunate that everything was eventually addressed and solved, but those long days of not knowing made a lasting impression on me, and so I have Claire and Sophie grapple with a similar situation in The Unicorn Quest.

The magic in Arden is found in the “the material” —that is to say, humans don’t have magic, but they do have the ability to release magic from the natural world around them, like plants, stone, metal, and thread. What inspired this particular brand of magic?

The Secret of Platform 13

The Secret of Platform 13

Paperback $8.99

The Secret of Platform 13

Eva Ibbotson

In Stock Online

Paperback $8.99

Several things, actually! I first had the idea for The Unicorn Quest when I was looking at the Unicorn Tapestries in the MET’s Cloisters here in New York. And since the story was inspired by art, I wanted to use art as a launch pad for building the fantasy world. I have always been fascinated by Michelangelo and how he viewed the act of sculpting. He once said that he saw the angel in the stone, and carved until he set it free. An artist’s ability to look at a block of marble, a yard of cloth, a patch of dirt, or a golden wire and see its potential to become a statue, a beautiful gown, a flowering garden, or intricate necklace seems like magic to me. I pushed a little bit on the idea, exaggerated its effects and ended up with the four guilds of Arden who can carve stone armies, weave invisibility cloaks from silk, and create mirrors so shiny that they can reflect the future.

Several things, actually! I first had the idea for The Unicorn Quest when I was looking at the Unicorn Tapestries in the MET’s Cloisters here in New York. And since the story was inspired by art, I wanted to use art as a launch pad for building the fantasy world. I have always been fascinated by Michelangelo and how he viewed the act of sculpting. He once said that he saw the angel in the stone, and carved until he set it free. An artist’s ability to look at a block of marble, a yard of cloth, a patch of dirt, or a golden wire and see its potential to become a statue, a beautiful gown, a flowering garden, or intricate necklace seems like magic to me. I pushed a little bit on the idea, exaggerated its effects and ended up with the four guilds of Arden who can carve stone armies, weave invisibility cloaks from silk, and create mirrors so shiny that they can reflect the future.

Where did you write your book?

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I

Paperback $10.99

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume I

Diana Wynne Jones

In Stock Online

Paperback $10.99

In quite a few places, actually! I wrote a lot of it in New York City, but also in my childhood city of Indianapolis, Indiana as well as in Oxford, England, where my boyfriend lived at the time. Each location inspired a different part of The Unicorn Quest. As I mentioned, the first time The Unicorn Quest came to me was when I was at the MET’s Cloisters, a beautiful museum in Manhattan, but if you ever travel to Indianapolis, you can see the house that inspired Claire’s great aunt’s mansion. And of course Oxford—that magical town that inspired C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, and Phillip Pullman—inspired the magical academies and river boats in Arden. I think when you look at the locations within an author’s work you’ll find a piece of all their previous lives, and all the places they cherish, hidden inside.

In quite a few places, actually! I wrote a lot of it in New York City, but also in my childhood city of Indianapolis, Indiana as well as in Oxford, England, where my boyfriend lived at the time. Each location inspired a different part of The Unicorn Quest. As I mentioned, the first time The Unicorn Quest came to me was when I was at the MET’s Cloisters, a beautiful museum in Manhattan, but if you ever travel to Indianapolis, you can see the house that inspired Claire’s great aunt’s mansion. And of course Oxford—that magical town that inspired C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, and Phillip Pullman—inspired the magical academies and river boats in Arden. I think when you look at the locations within an author’s work you’ll find a piece of all their previous lives, and all the places they cherish, hidden inside.

And finally, what were your favorite books at Claire’s age?

Let’s see, Claire is currently in the summer between fifth and sixth grade. At that time, I was very into Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series, Diana Wynn Jones’ Chrestomanci series, as well as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. It was also the summer I discovered Eva Ibbotson and devoured The Secret of Platform Thirteen and The Island of the Aunts in quick succession. I spent a lot of time that summer reading while I fed my infant brother his bottle!

The Unicorn Quest is on B&N bookshelves now!