Unicorn Island by Donna Galanti, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe. Andrews McMeel, 2021. 9781524864705
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5
What did you like about the book? Sam has lived in Brooklyn for a record 12 months with her mother, a musician. Just as she celebrates the fact that she’ll be at the same school for more than a year, her mom tells Sam that she is being sent to South Carolina for two months while her mom goes to Europe for an orchestral gig. And Sam doesn’t even know Uncle Mitch, whose house she’ll be staying at.
In tiny Foggy Harbor, Sam feels so alone, especially since Uncle Mitch is less than welcoming. Luckily she meet Tuck, a kid her age who is up for exploring the town with her. They take a look in her uncle’s hidden basement and find a mysterious Fog Clock, and some unusual animal horns. Then Sam notices Uncle Mitch disappearing into the foggy bay one night, and he doesn’t return the next day. She and Tuck row out to the island that no one knew existed, and find wyvern, unicorns and Uncle Mitch, as well as a solution to the mystery surrounding the Fog Clock.
This is a gentle mystery that introduces just enough suspense to please, but not enough to scare. There are big emotions in play as Sam deals with a mother who is tone deaf to her daughter’s needs, and Uncle Mitch is pretty off-putting at the beginning. Larger type, easy text and frequent full color illustrations make the book appropriate for kids newly into chapter books. Sam presents as white; Tuck is African American. This looks to be the start of a series.
Anything you didn’t like about it? There are threads left hanging, but they may be resolved in the next installments.
To whom would you recommend this book? For early elementary readers who like gentle fantasy and mythical creatures. The larger type may help those with vision/reading challenges.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: April 21, 2021