Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Princess and the Unicorn

The Princess and the Unicorn

Carol Hughes
For ages 9 to 12
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2009   ISBN: 978-0375855627

Miles outside London, in the countryside, there is a castle where members of the royal family can stay when they are in need of a little respite from their official duties. Swinley Castle lies next to Swinley Forest, “one of the last true ancient forests in Europe.” No human has entered the forest in a century, and it is a special and magical place.

   At the center of the forest there is a fairy town called Swinley Hope. In a little house at the top of horse chestnut tree a young fairy called Joyce lives with her parents. It is a lovely summer day and Joyce dilly dallies, until she is forcefully reminded that she needs to get going or she is going to be late getting to school.

   The fairies who live in the forest have wings, like all fairies do, but when they are ten years old, they stop flying. They consider flying to be “common,” and only the young children are allowed to do it. Joyce, though she knows that she should not fly, cannot help herself. Flying is so much faster than walking, and it so much fun.

   As she is flying to school Joyce sees the most amazing thing. She sees the unicorn, the one unicorn who lives in the forest. The unicorn and the forest are connected in a special way, and they can only thrive when they are together. If the unicorn is taken away from the forest, both the animal and the forest will die. The unicorn is rarely seen and Joyce is thrilled to be one of the lucky few who has seen it.

   After school, Joyce tries to find the unicorn again. She goes to the edge of the forest, which is something that she has never done before. She sees the sky, and she sees big people for the first time. By accident Joyce ends up flying right in front a young girl’s face. Joyce flies away and the girl, Princess Eleanor, chases after her, enters the forest, and sees the unicorn. Naturally the princess is enchanted by the animal and encouraged by her nurse, she arranges to have the unicorn taken to the castle.

   Joyce is appalled by this development. She tries to tell people what has happened, but no one believes her except her friend Sam. Sam tells Joyce that she is going to have to retrieve the unicorn before the animal and the forest die. She is the only fairy in the forest who has wings that are strong enough to fly for long distances.

   When Joyce begins her quest she knows that her task will not be easy, but she never imagines that it will involve her making friends with big people, a trip to London, and many other adventures.

   Young readers are going to thoroughly enjoy this entertaining and engaging story.