The Young Unicorns: Book Three of The Austin Family Chronicles

The Young Unicorns: Book Three of The Austin Family Chronicles

by Madeleine L'Engle

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466814219
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Series: Austin Family , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 504,187
File size: 370 KB
Age Range: 12 - 16 Years

About the Author

Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of more than 60 books, including the much-loved A Wrinkle in Time. Born in 1918, L'Engle grew up in New York City, Switzerland, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Her father was a reporter and her mother had studied to be a pianist, and their house was always full of musicians and theater people. L'Engle graduated cum laude from Smith College, then returned to New York to work in the theater. While touring with a play, she wrote her first book, The Small Rain, originally published in 1945. She met her future husband, Hugh Franklin, when they both appeared in The Cherry Orchard.

Upon becoming Mrs. Franklin, L'Engle gave up the stage in favor of the typewriter. In the years her three children were growing up, she wrote four more novels. Hugh Franklin temporarily retired from the theater, and the family moved to western Connecticut and for ten years ran a general store. Her book Meet the Austins, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book of 1960, was based on this experience.

Her science fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time was awarded the 1963 Newbery Medal. Two companion novels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (a Newbery Honor book), complete what has come to be known as The Time Trilogy, a series that continues to grow in popularity with a new generation of readers. Her 1980 book A Ring of Endless Light won the Newbery Honor. L'Engle passed away in 2007 in Litchfield, Connecticut.


Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) was the Newbery Medal-winning author of more than 60 books, including the much-loved A Wrinkle in Time. Born in 1918, L'Engle grew up in New York City, Switzerland, South Carolina and Massachusetts. Her father was a reporter and her mother had studied to be a pianist, and their house was always full of musicians and theater people. L'Engle graduated cum laude from Smith College, then returned to New York to work in the theater. While touring with a play, she wrote her first book, The Small Rain, originally published in 1945. She met her future husband, Hugh Franklin, when they both appeared in The Cherry Orchard. Upon becoming Mrs. Franklin, L'Engle gave up the stage in favor of the typewriter. In the years her three children were growing up, she wrote four more novels. Hugh Franklin temporarily retired from the theater, and the family moved to western Connecticut and for ten years ran a general store. Her book Meet the Austins, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book of 1960, was based on this experience. Her science fantasy classic A Wrinkle in Time was awarded the 1963 Newbery Medal. Two companion novels, A Wind in the Door and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (a Newbery Honor book), complete what has come to be known as The Time Trilogy, a series that continues to grow in popularity with a new generation of readers. Her 1980 book A Ring of Endless Light won the Newbery Honor. L'Engle passed away in 2007 in Litchfield, Connecticut.

Date of Birth:

January 12, 1918

Date of Death:

September 6, 2007

Place of Birth:

New York, NY

Place of Death:

Litchfield, CT

Education:

Smith College, 1941

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Winter came early to the city that year. Josiah Davidson, emerging from the subway, his arms loaded with schoolbooks, shivered against the dank November rain which blew icily against his face and sent a trickle down the back of his neck. He did not see three boys in black jackets who moved out of a sheltering doorway and stalked him.

Uncomfortable, unaware, he hurried along the street until he came to a run- down tenement. Here he let himself in through the rusty iron gate that led to the basement apartment.

The three boys went silently up the brownstone steps and took cover in the doorway, listening, waiting.

The one room was dark and cold and smelled of cabbage; Josiah Davidson dumped his books on the table, sniffed with displeasure, and left. He stood for a moment on the wet sidewalk, looked downhill towards Harlem, uphill towards the great Cathedral which dominated the area, its multicolored Octagon of stone and glass glowing brilliantly against the rain-filled sky.

The three boys in the doorway waited until Josiah Davidson started up the hill, then followed. He climbed quickly and it was not easy to keep his pace. They began to run as he pulled a key ring, heavy with keys, from his pocket and fitted one into the wrought-iron gate at the bottom of the Cathedral Close.

As he opened the gate he swung round and saw them.

"What's your hurry, Dave?" one asked.

"No!" he said sharply, pushed through the gate and slammed it in their faces.

They laughed mockingly, banging against the gate but not really trying to get in.

Dave ran up the hill past the choir buildings, through the Dean's Garden, November-sad in the downpour, and climbed a flight of concrete steps that led into the Cathedral itself. The small side door was already closed for the night; he unlocked it and went into the ambulatory, a wide half-circle off which seven chapels were rayed like the spokes of a wheel. He could hear the high voices of the choirboys singing Evensong around the full length of the passage in St. Ansgar's chapel. He had once been a Cathedral chorister himself, but for the past few years the Cathedral had been mainly a short cut for him. He hurried down the echoing nave, past the soaring beauty of the central altar. Above it, the great Octagon seemed to brood over the Cathedral, protecting it for the night. One of the guards, strolling up the center aisle, saw the boy and waved: "Hi, Dave."

Dave waved back but did not slacken his pace. From the chapel came the clear notes of the Nunc Dimittis: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word ...

— That's all I want, the boy thought, — a little peace. And to have my past leave me alone.

He pushed out the heavy front doors and ran down the steep flight of stone steps that led to the street.

Josiah Davidson walked quickly along Broadway, stepping out in the street to avoid a cluster of darkly beautiful women looking cold in their saris, too delicate for the November air. He brushed by a group of men in native African dress, pushed through strolling Columbia students in assorted eccentricities of clothing. He was so accustomed to the conglomerate and colorful crowd on the Upper West Side of the city that it would have taken someone beyond the bounds of the merely unusual to have made him pause and take notice.

He halted at a large school building. Its bright lights spilled warmly onto the street; the heavy rain had slackened, was only a fine drizzle, but he felt cold. He turned up the collar of his coat and blew on his fingers. He looked up and down the street, but the three black-jacketed boys were nowhere to be seen. He leaned against the school building and watched boys and girls of all ages begin to straggle out the side door; classes had been dismissed an hour before, but older children had stayed for orchestra rehearsal, for detention, for club meetings; younger ones with working mothers had remained for supervised play until they could be called for. Some carried violin or clarinet cases, some satchels of books, and some, despite the icy wind blowing in from the Hudson, were eating ice cream. One of the senior boys, about Dave's own age, called, "Emily'll be along in a minute, Dave. She's helping that little kid get his boots on."

"Okay. Thanks." Dave shoved his cold hands into his pockets, slouched against the cold wall of the school building, and waited.

Across the street a man in a dark overcoat and a foreign-looking fur hat stood in the doorway of an apartment building, watching the school, watching Dave.

"We're here, Dave!"

Dave turned to the opening door; a little boy in a navy-blue pea jacket and a bright red woolen cap appeared. Behind him, one hand on his shoulder, came a tall, long-legged girl; her dark hair fell loosely on a wine-colored velvet coat which was in marked contrast to the plain navy blue everybody else was wearing.

"Emily!" Dave demanded. "Do you know what you have on?"

She bristled. "My good coat. My school coat's still sopping."

"Okay. So how was orchestra rehearsal?"

She relaxed. "Horrendous. Ear-splitting. Cacophonous. And if they don't get the auditorium piano tuned I'll have to do it myself. Hurry, please, Dave. I'll be late for my piano lesson again and Mr. Theo'll slaughter me."

The man in the fur hat left the shadows of the doorway and followed the oddly assorted trio: the dark, shabby boy; the definitely younger and rather elegant girl; and the fair little boy who couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old.

They reached the corner and turned down Broadway. The bitter wind whipped a few brown leaves and bits of soiled newspaper across the sidewalk. Strands of Emily's fine, dark hair blew across her face and she pushed it back impatiently. As they passed a shabby little antique shop with a gloomy bin of oddments on the sidewalk in front of the dusty windows, Dave paused.

"It was here," Rob said. "Right here."

Emily pulled impatiently at Dave's arm, but the older boy stood, looking at the shop window, at the door with the sign PHOOKA'S ANTIQUES, then moved on, more slowly.

Shortly before they reached 110th Street the man with the fur hat pulled ahead of them and merged with a group of people clustered about a newsstand. He held a paper so that he could look past it at the children as they came by.

The little boy, who had made friends with the crippled man who owned the newsstand, looked up to wave hello. His mouth opened in startled recognition as his eyes met those of their follower. He didn't hear the news vender call out, "Hi, Robby, what's up?"

The man in the fur hat smiled at the small boy, nodded briefly, rolled up his newspaper, and turned back in the direction of the Cathedral.

Dave and Emily had gone on ahead. Rob ran after them, calling, "Dave! He's the one!" He tugged at the older boy's sleeve.

"Who's what one?" Dave pulled impatiently away from the scarlet mitten.

"The man we saw yesterday, the one who talked to Emily!"

Dave stopped. "Where?"

Rob pointed towards the Cathedral.

"Wait!" Dave ran back round the corner.

"Emily, he was the one," Rob said. "I'm sorry, but I know he was."

"I don't want to talk about it." Emily's face looked pale and old beyond her years. She was just moving into adolescence, but her expression had nothing childlike about it. "It couldn't have been the same one," she whispered.

"But he was real," Rob persisted. "It did happen."

Dave returned. "I didn't see anybody. Anyway, how do you know he was the one?"

"Because he had no eyebrows."

Emily gave a shudder that had nothing to do with the cold. "I don't want to think about him. I don't want to think about yesterday. Come on. Let's hurry." She took Dave's arm.

Rob backed along excitedly in front of them. "He was right under the light. And he recognized me, too. He did! He looked right at me and nodded."

"Rob!" Emily said sharply. "Not now! Not before my lesson."

Dave steered her away from a group of jostling boys and hurried her down the street, past the light from the shops, from the street lamps, from buses crowded with people coming home from work. "I suppose your lesson's going to be a knock-down drag-out fight all the way as usual?"

"Mr. Theo'll be furious if I'm late, but I know that fugue inside out. As a matter of fact —" Emily relaxed again and burst into a pleased, expectant laugh.

"What?" Rob asked. "What's funny?"

"Nothing. At least not yet. If you come along to my lesson you'll see."

"Anything for a laugh," Dave said. "Give me your key, Emily."

As they turned towards the Hudson, Emily reached inside the collar of the velvet coat and tugged at a chain with a key on it, tangling it in her hair as she pulled it over her head. "Here."

On the corner of Riverside Drive stood a large and dilapidated but still elegant stone mansion. Dave opened the heavy blue door that led into a hall with a marble floor and wide marble stairs. At the back of the hall, double doors were open into a great living room dominated by two grand pianos. By one of the pianos stood a small old man with a shaggy mane of yellowing hair.

If he had been larger he would have looked startlingly like an aging lion. He let out a roar. "So, Miss Emily Gregory!"

"So, Mr. Theotocopoulos!" She threw each syllable of his name back at him with angry precision.

"Three times in a row you come to me late."

Emily flung her head up, simultaneously unbuttoning her coat and letting it fall to the floor behind her. "How late am I?"

The old man pulled out a gold watch. Temper matched temper. "Remember, Miss, that I come personally and promptly to you, instead of making you come to my studio —"

"So I'll come to your studio —"

"In my declining years I must still work like a hog. One minute too late is too many of my valuable time —"

"I couldn't help it, orchestra rehearsal —"

"No alibis! And kindly pick up your coat and hang it up —"

"I'm going to!"

"— like a civilized human being instead of a spoiled rat."

Emily reached furiously for her coat. "I'm not spoiled!"

"You are disrupted and disreputable!"

"Then so is Dave!"

"Emily! Be courteous or be quiet!" The old man sounded as though he himself were no more than Emily's age. "I am fit to be fried."

Emily grabbed the coat and rushed towards the hall, bumping headlong into the doorjamb. She let out a furious yell, echoed by her music-master.

"If you knock yourself out you think that will make me sorry for you? Hang up your coat and come sit down at the piano. And do not move without thinking where you are going."

"Do I always have to think!" Emily shouted.

Rob, who had started automatically to help Emily, turned back to the room and sat on a small gold velvet sofa in front of a wall of bookshelves, the lower, wider shelves filled with music. "Do you mind if I stay?" he asked politely. "Sort of to pick up the pieces, you know, if there are any left."

"Mr. Theo," Dave said, holding himself in control, "there is a difference between mollycoddling her and — "

"Sit down!" Mr. Theo bellowed. "You are talking about a twelve-year-old girl, and I am talking about an artist. I will not let her do anything that will hurt her music. Now sit still and listen — if you have ears to hear."

Shrugging, Dave stalked over to his favorite black leather chair by the marble fireplace.

Out in the hall by the coatrack, Emily managed to get her coat to stay on its hook; then, walking carefully but with the assurance of familiarity, she came back and sat down at one of the pianos. "Then why don't you let me give a concert if you think I'm a musician?"

Mr. Theotocopoulos took her hands in his. "Why could you not come straight home from school? Cannot that so-called orchestra get along without you? And your hands are too cold to be of any use for music at all." He began to massage her fingers. "You are too young for a concert. You would be not only a child prodigy, you would be a blind child prodigy, and people would say, 'Isn't she marvelous, poor little thing?' and nobody would have heard you play at all. Is that what you want?"

"No," she said.

He rubbed her hands for a moment more in silence, then asked, "What is bothering you?"

"Nothing. I don't want to talk about it."

"Something at school?"

"No."

"But there is something. Yes. Bigger than something at school. I can feel it in your hands. All right. Play, and we will see what you tell me."

"I won't tell you anything."

"You think you can hide yourself from me when you play, hah?"

"We'll see." Emily sounded grim, then gave an unexpected giggle. "Shall I start with the G minor fugue?"

Mr. Theo looked at her suspiciously. "If you think your fingers are limber enough."

She adjusted the piano bench carefully, then held her hands out over the keyboard, flexing them before starting to play. Rob sat straight on the little gold sofa. Dave slouched on the end of his spine in the leather chair and put his feet on the brass fender. Mr. Theo scowled and waited.

Emily began to play. After less than a minute Mr. Theo roared, his yellowed mane seeming to rise in rage from his bulbous forehead, "And what in the name of all I treasure is that?"

She stopped, turning her face towards his voice with an expression of wounded surprise. "You told me last week that I was to learn that fugue backwards and forwards. That's backwards."

Mr. Theotocopoulos's roars of rage turned into roars of laughter and he grabbed Emily in a huge hug of delight. "See?" he asked, more to an imaginary audience than to Rob and Dave. "See what I mean? All right, child, let us hear. Play it backwards all the way through."

Whenever Emily was pleased with herself and her world she had a deep chuckle that gave somewhat the effect of a kitten's purr. Pleasure in her accomplishment, and it was indeed an accomplishment, made her purr now. She reached for a moment for a cumbersome sheet of Braille music manuscript, concentrated on it with a furious scowl, then grinned again and turned back to the piano. "I really rather like it this way. I wonder Bach never thought of it."

Dave turned to ask Rob, "Your family know where you are?"

"They knew I was going to wait after school for Emily. If anybody wants me they'll guess I'm here and come downstairs and get me."

"Quiet!" roared Mr. Theotocopoulos.

"The trouble with you," Emily said to her teacher without a fraction's hesitation in her playing, "is that you can't concentrate." She raised her hands from the keyboard. "It's rather splendid backwards, isn't it? Shall I do it forwards now?"

Dave closed his eyes and listened, merged, submerged in counterpoint. Rob tugged at his red overshoes until he got them off, dumped his shoes on the floor beside the boots, curled up on the gold velvet of the sofa and, listening, slept.

So no one noticed when a blond, curly-haired girl, about Emily's age, appeared on the threshold. The big double doors were open wide and she stood, center stage, conspicuous in a quilted bathrobe that was too long for her, and with a large piece of red flannel tied round her throat. "Hi," she croaked.

Nobody paid any attention.

"Well, even if you can't hear me I should think you could smell me. I reek of Vicks." She crossed to the sofa and shook Rob. "Mother just happened to see you coming in with Emily and Dave. If you don't check in with her when you get in from school, you won't be allowed to walk home alone again."

Rob woke up, almost falling off the sofa, and yawned like a puppy. "But I wasn't alone, Suzy," he said, reasonably if sleepily. "I was with Emily and Dave."

Suzy blew her nose noisily, getting a glare from the old music teacher. "That's not the point," she whispered, her attempt at quietness almost louder than her croak. "You're still supposed to check in, you know that. Hasn't it penetrated that the Upper West Side of New York City is not a safe place for little kids to wander about in?"

"The whole world isn't a safe place," Rob said. "Anyhow, be quiet. I'm listening to Emily. How's your cold?" he added as an afterthought.

"It flourishes." Suzy pulled a fresh wad of tissues from the dressing-gown pocket. Her small nose looked red and sore from much blowing. She shuffled in her huge, fuzzy slippers over to the fireplace and sat across from Dave in a wing chair with sagging springs. "Anyhow, you weren't listening to Emily. You were sound asleep." Music apparently meant less to Suzy than it did to Rob or the older boy; she wriggled in the chair, bounced on the creaking springs, blew her nose, wriggled, sniffled, bounced, until Mr. Theotocopoulos shouted at her: "Either keep your not-listening to yourself, Miss Austin, or go upstairs to your own apartment."

"I'm not not-listening, Mr. Theo," she protested hoarsely. "Anyhow, that's not music, what you're making Emily do now."

"But it will lead to music. Sit still and kindly keep your germs to yourself. Burn your used tissues. Don't leave them around to spread the plague. Emily and I have only another fifteen minutes."

Suzy sighed, heavily, then gave a choked sneeze.

Emily, paying no attention to this contretemps, had continued to work.

"No!" Mr. Theo bellowed. "Seven against four has to be absolutely precise."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Young Unicorns"
by .
Copyright © 1968 Crosswicks, Ltd.
Excerpted by permission of Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Young Unicorns 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
nebula61 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
L'Engle's other books may be better-known, but this is the one that has stayed with me over the years. Such a dark, creepy atmosphere, such memorable characters!
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
The author's note in the front makes it plain that this takes place in the near future. (Thus Meet the Austins also takes place later than written (1960), because this is only a few years after that in story-time.) There's nothing particularly futuristic about the setting, however; the only technological change seems to be a specific laser technology that still doesn't exist in that exact form. Still, I guess you'd have to call it science fiction.This can be dated in story-time to approximately a year before Dragons in the Waters, which means that, if you wanted to, you could figure out exactly how the Austins intersect with the Murrys and the O'Keefes. I wonder if there are internal inconsistencies in the timeline?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. I love the connections between the charecters.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The book I read is called The Young Unicorns by Madeline L¿engle. It is about a group of children who see a genie in Phooka¿s Antiques shop. They are all confused and unsure what they believe about the genie. One of the children, Emily, was blinded in an accident. Dave, a older friend of the children, comes after school and reads her lessons and homework to her. Dave used to be part of a gang called the Alphabets. Soon after, Dave and Vicky see and talk to a guy that they saw in the shop when they saw the genie. They soon find out he is friends with the Dean of the school. Dave has tea with him and finds out more about the guy. There is something else going on in the city that the Dean and the guy from the shop are worried about. They think it might have to do with the gang, the Alphabets, a gang that Dave used to be apart of but doesn¿t want anything to do with anymore. One night after Dave¿s lessons with Emily he is surrounded by members from the Alphabets and taken to the Bishop of the catholic church. He is up to no good and wants information, from Dave. He makes Dave swear not to tell anyone. Then Dave is ordered by the Bishop to bring Rob, a boy from a family friends of Emily¿s. Dave tells the family he is taking Rob and Rob¿s dog for a walk. When Dave and Rob are gone longer than they should be, Emily and Vicky get suspicious and go looking for them. Then Vicky¿s dad gets worried about where Vicky and Emily are and goes to find them. Read the book to find out what happens. The book was pretty exciting to read. It got more exciting at the end when there was more action. I was never able to feel like I was ¿in¿ the book because I couldn¿t picture what was going on all the time. The main conflict, which was finding out what exactly had happened in the accident and what was going on with the Bishop and Alphabets did interest me. I wanted to know what really happened to Emily and who did it. I also wanted to know what was going on with the Bishop. Some parts of the characters were realistic but there were some unrealistic parts. They themselves seemed pretty realistic but what they did didn¿t. I thought that the end was pretty satisfying. Everything I wanted to happen, happened but it wasn¿t unrealistic. The author wrote this book mostly in third person, but sometimes he got into the character¿s head and gave their thoughts about what was happening. The author¿s writing was pretty easy to read, though there were a few difficult words. There weren¿t really any unique characteristics about the authors¿ writing style. There was a lot of dialogue, it was in every scene. The characters talking to one another and figuring out stuff. There was some description and tone but, I think the author could of used more. Overall, I thought the author¿s writing was somewhat boring, there wasn¿t enough action and he took too long getting to the point. Otherwise I thought the author¿s writing was good. I liked how it unraveled at the end and ended up being someone who I didn¿t expect. I would give this book a seven out of ten. It was definitely not the best book I¿ve read but it was still pretty good and pretty well written. I would recommend this book to anyone twelve and up. It was pretty easy to read but there were a few difficult parts and words. Anyone who is looking for an adventure or fun story should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was good, and I liked it a lot. All of the characters seemed realistic, and my favorites were Emily and Suzy. This story has a really good plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
New York City in the 1960s. It's a place where the sure sign of gang membership is a black leather jacket, where the worst drugs adolescents may encounter are 'pot' and 'acid,' and where laser surgery is still the stuff of science fiction - although just barely. To the Austin family from Thornhill, Connecticut, it's simultaneously Sin City and a place where they have settled in to make a temporary home. Small Rob has ventured for the first time into a world of boys and men, by opting for a nearby cathedral's parochial school instead of going with his older sisters Suzy and Vicky. The family has taken two waifs into its bosom: Emily Gregory, their landlord's blind and motherless daughter; and Josiah 'Dave' Davidson, a former gang member who reads Emily her lessons. How are Emily, Dave, Dave's father who works in the cathedral's maintenance department, the cathedral's dean, and a visiting Anglican canon connected to the research that the Austin children's father is mysteriously conducting during this year off from his country medical practice? That's the key to a mystery which Rob, Suzy, and Vicky all realize - at different times and in different ways - is threatening their family, too. L'Engle's two previous Austin books, and the one following this in the series, have Vicky as first-person narrator. I found myself missing her voice as I read, but I quickly realized why the author chose to tell this story in the third person. That approach enables us to follow the story from many different viewpoints. Having it unfold through Vicky's eyes alone would not, for this young adult thriller, produce a tale even half as satisfying. This is the first L'Engle book that I've read as an adult and found it dated. However, the story still works well on each of its various levels. I figured the mystery out before I should have, but can't say how well I might have done with it as a young teen.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was slightly disappointed when I concluded reading this book. Actually, it was a good book, but definitely not L'Engle at her best. The plot was certainly interesting, but a bit far-out. Overall, I recommend this book, but be sure to read other L'Engle books-- their wonderful!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book because it really kept me going. It was one of those books that you really don't want to put down just to empty the dishwasher. The Austins, Emily, and the rest of the colorful characters in this novel combine to make a highly enjoyable story with a rather surprising ending(I wouldn't tell you what for the world).