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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Phoebe and Her Unicorn

Phoebe and Her Unicorn
Unicorn on a Roll
by Dana Simpson

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Series: Amp Comics for Kids
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing; 1St Edition edition (September 2, 2014)

The fact that the protagonist is a plain-Jane fourth grader might have something to do with it. Or perhaps it is the haughty and elegant unicorn that did it. Whichever it was, the then nine-year-old resident fourth-grader took to Phoebe and her Unicorn comics like a sponge to water.

Phoebe is a friendless fourth grader. Quite by accident one day, while skipping rocks, Phoebe hits a narcissistic unicorn who has unnamed magical powers, which breaks the spell and frees the said unicorn.

When the unicorn magnanimously offers to fulfill one wish, Phoebe latches on the one thing that every kid has thought of at one time or another: I wish for an infinity more wishes to be granted! Of course, that's never going to happen. So, she asks for Infinity dollars. Not going to happen either. Finally, Phoebe wishes for the unicorn to be her Best Friend. Which the unicorn is unable to oil out of.

The comic strip chronicles their adventures together, incorporating everyday school events as well as other situations. Available as a two-volume collection, A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle and Unicorn on a Roll are typically snarky yet sweet and extremely giggle-worthy. While not a graphic novel per se with a clear story arc, the groups of strips in the books are coherently organized to make up a story as it unfolded.

I enjoyed the books as well. First, how can one not like a name like Marigold Heavenly Nostrils? That's the unicorn's name. This high-and-mighty unicorn actually is the straight-man in this comedic team where Phoebe is full of wild antics that bounces off the self-assured unicorn. Second interesting aspect is the blurring of lines between fantasy world and real world for Phoebe. Thirdly, every once in a while, when the unicorn knows or does something inexplicable, a single word in a fancy font makes it all right: "Unicorn". Yes, that explains it all away, perfectly. Fourthly, it is clever and funny in parts, plus touching and sweet, which balances the sharp-witted sarcasm that can get annoying otherwise.

Over summer, when I noticed that the ten-year-old pulled this book out from our shelf and asked her visiting best friend to read it right then, and when I saw them both engrossed in it, pointing and giggling and discussing it, I knew this is resonating well with this reader-demographic.

[Unicorns vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and her Unicorn Adventure is launching in Feb 2016]

[image source: Andrews McMeel publishing]

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