Nobody Rides the Unicorn

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9780439112048: Nobody Rides the Unicorn

Zoe is a nobody - a poor orphan with nothing of her own but a golden singing voice. When a greedy king exploits her voice to capture a unicorn, Zoe rebels and helps the unicorn escape. Then her faith and courage lead her to the land of the unicorns, a place of happiness where at last she is somebody indeed.

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Review:

Zoe is a poor, orphaned beggar girl living on the outskirts of the kingdom of Joppardy. She is also the quietest, gentlest girl in the land, which is exactly what the king is looking for. He needs the horn of a unicorn, and according to the king's adviser Doctor Slythe, only sweet young girls can trap the fierce and elusive beasts. The king tricks Zoe into entering the deep forest with him and the doctor, and luring a unicorn with her innocent songs ("His coat is like snowflakes/ woven with silk./ When he goes galloping/ He flows like milk"). Just as a unicorn puts his head in her lap to sleep, hundreds of men attack and trap the beautiful animal. Zoe, furious at the deception, sets the unicorn free, and the "little nobody" is banished from the kingdom. With nowhere else to turn, she wanders off to find her unicorn:

Zoe said, "Me, I'm nobody."
"Climb on my back, kind Nobody," said the unicorn with his eyes. "For Nobody rides the unicorn."

Zoe may have broken the laws of the kingdom, but she is abiding the laws of her conscience. Ultimately, what reader can deny that she has done the right thing? Poet Adrian Mitchell's lyrical text about a girl who, in following her heart, befriends a unicorn, meshes perfectly with the dark, velvety, mystical illustrations by Stephen Lambert. These are the kinds of pictures that stay with a reader for a lifetime. For every fan of myth and strong female leads, this story is just right. (Ages 6 to 9)

From Publishers Weekly:

Impressionistic artwork creates a dreamy, surreal backdrop for this story of an orphan girl who beguiles a unicorn. The king of Joppardy learns from Doctor Slythe that he must obtain the horn of a unicorn in order to protect him from harm. The two deceptively persuade a waif named Zoe--"nobody's child"--to lure a unicorn with her gentle voice, but when she learns of the king's plans, she sets the unicorn free and is banished from the kingdom. She then makes her way to the "secret valley of the unicorns," where her kindness is rewarded. Though Mitchell's (Maudie and the Green Children) prose is pedestrian in places, particularly Zoe's song to the unicorn ("His mind is peaceful as the grass./ He is the loveliest one of all/ And he lives behind the waterfall"), it also contains flashes of pure poetry ("The air was torn by trumpets," signals the legendary beast's capture). It's Lambert's (Bedtime) otherworldly illustrations that lift the book to a higher level. His sophisticated use of mist-filtered light and shadow, and his seamless blend of old-world elegance and hints of modern life, make this a cautionary tale with a sense of immediacy (a red car winds its way up to a medieval castle; the heroine and king wear contemporary clothing). Mysterious visual themes are interwoven; a giraffe and a boatman with four geese make intermittent appearances. The enigmatic, lush imagery will haunt readers long after the somewhat forgettable story has ended. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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