The Unicorn Whisperer
The idea is simple — Phoebe is an oddball kid who has a real, live, magical unicorn for a friend. Her parents and a couple of her classmates know about Marigold (the unicorn). Their different perspectives make for all kinds of humorous moments, whether it’s Phoebe reacting to a spell in rather blasé fashion or Marigold putting her own unique spin on human culture.
Author Dana Simpson has managed to wring a lot of laughs out of this premise. Because these books collect daily comic strips, usually at four color panels per page, the best way to talk about them is, I think, for me to point out moments I liked the most.
The Unicorn Whisperer is tenth in the series. It came out in October 2019. I loved it from the beginning, where the second strip references the “interrupting cow” joke. It turns out Marigold knows Mabel, the cow in question.
Phoebe wants to have a slumber party and invite her friend Max. Mom tries to point out that slumber parties are traditionally single-sex, an argument Phoebe shoots down by pointing out that they don’t traditionally have unicorns, either. This comic is often current and fresh in their way it deals with life today instead of sticking with traditional perspectives.
There are also trends that pop up. Marigold gets distracted by a new virtual game, Pokhumon Go, where she collects a business person and a flight attendant. Another sequence deals with the difference between enjoyment and obsession, and some are about what it means to be friends. While I’m laughing, I’m also struck by insight and wisdom.
But Phoebe’s still a kid, as she plays jump rope and climbs a tree and wants to be a superhero for Halloween. The art is straightforward, but with the right details. I’m a particular fan of the way Marigold wears a scarf and leg warmers during the snowy winter months. For being a unicorn, with four legs, Simpson does a terrific job drawing Marigold in a tree house or bathtub or going to the movies.
Another strip has Phoebe expressing “tough love” to ducks, who want stale bread even though it isn’t good for them. The messages in this comic are those I’m not afraid to share with kids of all ages, because they show that it’s ok to be weird and care for people and be yourself and like reading and science and be smart. Dad tells Phoebe a bedtime story with that message, in a sequence that also includes the line “We correct in fiction what life gets wrong.” That’s mantra-worthy.
You know what else is great about these uplifting books? The logos sparkle. They use glitter foil. There are preview pages at the publisher’s website.