________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 6 . . . . November 16, 2001.

cover The Land Without Unicorns.

Vicki Blum. Illustrated by David Bordeleau.
Markham, ON Scholastic Canada, 2001.
118 pp., pbk., $4.99.
ISBN 0-439-98863-2.

Subject Headings:
Unicorns-Fiction.
Fantasy.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Christina Pike.

*** /4

excerpt:

"A long time ago," she explained, "a very special book was made. It was called the Book of Fairies. It was written by the greatest and wisest of our people, and much love and magic went into its creation. It contained our learning and our laws. But even more important, a spell was woven into the book so that every time one with fairy blood was born, his or her name appeared inside."

"A fairy genealogy?" Arica asked.

Grandmother shook her head. "No, there were other books for listing family trees and recording history. This book only kept a record of living fairies. Once a fairy died, his or her name faded from the page. As you have probably guessed, this book was unique. Obeying the laws written there brought us great happiness and increased our abilities to use magic for good. It contained most of our recipes and spells, many of which are now forgotten."

An uneasy feeling was beginning to creep through Arica's bones. "Was the book destroyed?"

Grandmother shook her head. "No, something even more terrible happened."

The Land Without Unicorns is the third novel in a series written by Vicki Blum. Set in a world filled with magic, North Bundelag faces destruction. Summoned by her grandmother, Arica travels to North Bundelag, but, unknown to her, she is followed by her cousin, Connor. The two are given the challenge of retrieving the Book of Fairies from a greedy merchant. As they journey to Haggdon's house, they face many challenges, including having the money they are given to buy back the Book of Fairies stolen. Their travelling companion is Shadow, an unicorn that cannot be trusted. As a unicorn, he is not able to tell a lie, but Shadow has learned the ways of the humans and knows when not to speak. This unlikely threesome must travel across the bridge to South Bundelag to a world that has very few rules and fewer morals.

     In this novel, Blum has developed characters that are strong and suited to a world of fantasy. Her storyline is also suited to this world, and the complications are believable. The Land Without Unicorns, however, is much more than a story of fantasy. It is a novel of self-discovery. The hidden lesson, that one must know oneself before knowing another, is key to Arica's and Connor's success. In order to find the Book of Fairies, Arica has to believe in herself and the power of her magic. She also has to realize that life's lessons are not easy ones to learn. Until these two things happen, any attempts to retrieve this book will be useless. Similarly, Connor must find also find his own inner strength. At the centre of the novel is the theme of unlikely heroism. Both Arica and Connor, who are cast as the heroes in this novel, are not the stereotypical heroes. They are the underdogs, and, feeling empathy with their plight, the reader is drawn into rooting for them and, at the same time, into believing that anything is possible, if you have faith.

A simple novel that teaches so many lessons.

Recommended.

Christina Pike, Learning Resource and English Teacher at Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts, NF.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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