Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and her Unicorn Adventure

 

By Dana Simpson

From the back cover

Phoebe and Her Unicorn is back with more sparkles than ever! In this fourth volume, join in the adventure as Phoebe and Marigold confront messy rooms, trouble at school, and a nasty case of “Sparkle Fever”. Follow with the pair back to Camp Wolfgang, where their old pals Sue (a.k.a. “Monster Girl”) and Ringo, the lake creature, remind them that being weird is WAY more fun than being normal.

My thoughts…

Dana Simpson started this book as part of a newspaper comic strip. She kept her characters, Phoebe and her unicorn, Marigold, as part of her books. Children, especially girls, seem fascinated by the idea of a magical unicorn friend and the weird, yet confident, personality of Phoebe. The book seems to consist of short separate incident that end in a valuable lesson or harmless humour. The main character, Phoebe, learn about time, friendship, and the acceptance of one’s “different” personality.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Page 41: Phoebe talks about her friend “who is a boy but not my boyfriend”.

Page 159: Phoebe writes a text to her parents while she’s away at summer camp saying that she thinks her unicorn is in love.

Pages 174-175: Phoebe’s unicorn and the sea monster talk about love and the unicorn is illustrated to kiss the monster on what seems to be its nose.

Violence

  • Phoebe’s summer camp friend talks about destroying things and setting things on fire. This is a quick reference however and isn’t entertained by Phoebe at all.

Profanity

Mild language: stupid, butt, boogerbrain.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Phoebe’s mother is illustrated holding a cup of wine while stating that Phoebe underestimates (the joy of) wine.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • Phoebe’s parents are very understanding and accepting of Phoebe’s “unique” personality and respect her imaginary unicorn.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas are mentioned as well as Christmas gift exchange.

 

Positive messages

The book focuses on self-acceptance, and confidence. It also touches on several aspects in a child’s life including bullying and how to deal with school problems. There’s an interesting bit on the understanding of time and how stressing over time can sometimes get in the way of achieving goals.

Final Verdict

Dana Simpson’s unicorn book series seem to be attracting a lot of attention from children and parents alike. The subtle, yet unique humour makes the book appealing to all types of readers. The confidence that radiates from the protagonist, Phoebe, her unicorn, Marigold, as well as their summer camp friend, Sue, is plausible and serves as a great model to young readers. The overall message to young readers is about embracing and accepting themselves as unique beings that, may be different yet, special.

The Familiars: Secrets of the Crown

By Adam Jay Epstein

From the back cover

Alderney felt his stomach do a somersault for the second time that day. But unlike before, it wasn’t adrenaline or gravity that was twisting his insides. It was the realization that something terrible had befallen Vastia.
****Human Magic was gone!****

My thoughts…

This book is the second book in The Familiars trilogy. The story revolves around animals and humans with magic abilities and necromancy. Wizards, sorcerers, magic and fairies that make rain fall with their wings. Skylar is a bluejay that can cast realistic illusions, Aldwyn is a cat with telekinetic abilities, and Gilbert, the frog that can see the future in waters. The story talks of some gods and different belief systems like praying to the “cloud gods”. Read on for the details.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Chapter 2: A quick mention of “affection” between a girl and a boy.
Chapter 7: The animals tease the bluejay about having a boyfriend causing her to blush.

Violence

  • Talk of a Dead Army rising.
  • Illustrations of zombies with eaten flesh and missing limbs lighting fires to innocent civilian houses.
  • A killing of a villain cat occurs at the end.

Profanity

The word butt is mentioned.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • A prophecy that the three familiars will save the land from destruction.
  • Some of the animal characters come from broken families. The cat struggles with the idea that his parents abandoned him as a baby but the reasons become clear towards the end of the book.
  • Chapter 8: Trying to ease his cat friend’s pain over his perception of his father, the frog states “our parents aren’t always the people we want them to be”. However, the cats finds proof towards the end of the book that his parents were misjudged and were true heroes.
  • The animals perform miracles.
  • Chapter 7: Reference to “the gods”.
  • Chapter 2: A bird speaks to the dead. Trying to form contact with the spirits is forbidden in Islam.
  • Chapter 6: The animals encounter an idol that requires a drop of blood as sacrifice to open a gate.
  • Skylar, the bluejay, learns necromancy to try and bring her sister back from the dead.
  • A man eats a plant that makes him immortal and stops his aging.

Final Verdict

This is like the Harry Potter of pre-teens. Aside from the above mentioned points, the book supports the idea of the afterlife by referring to is as the “Tomorrowlife” but opens the doors to possibilities of talking to the dead and even bringing them back to life. Attempting interaction with dead spirits is forbidden in Islam.