A Baby Unicorn for Valentine’s Day
February 11, 2021 § 4 Comments
Valentine’s Day approaches, so consider this your annual reminder that the only acceptable Valentine is a new book. You may recall I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to recommending books for Valentine’s Day. If a heart on a cover is what you’re after, you won’t do better than this. But I like a timeless story about friendship that can be read any time of year, which is why in past Valentine’s posts I’ve been about this, this, this, and this. This year, you’re in for an added treat if you head over to Instagram, where I’ve been running a mini gift guide all week, with selects from babies to teens.
Sometimes a book comes along, and even though it’s not breaking any ground, even though it won’t win any awards, it’s so insanely adorable you want to give it to everyone you know.
Let’s be clear. My daughter cannot abide the unicorn craze. She has never tolerated it for one minute. What did unicorns ever do to her? I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this: one year for her birthday, I bought her a pair of horse pajamas, only when she opened them, her eyes immediately locked onto a detail I had failed to notice; each of the horses had, in fact, teeny tiny silvery horns on their forehead. I watched her attempt to disguise her horror and choke out a thank you, but she never wears those PJs.
Now imagine that this same daughter should fall in love with Briony May Smith’s Margaret’s Unicorn (Ages 3-7), about a girl, recently relocated to the wild English countryside, who keeps watch over the CUTEST baby unicorn for two seasons until his mother returns for him. Imagine that this daughter was so taken by the book that she begged me to purchase our own copy, despite being well outside the target age. And then you’ll understand why it would be impossible for a book to receive a higher endorsement.
There is so much joy, so much heart, so much good will in this story that it’s destined to put the biggest smile on children’s faces. If that doesn’t make it perfect for Valentine’s Day, perhaps you ought to collect some moonlit water for your baby unicorn and then come back and we’ll talk.
When we first meet Margaret, she’s stepping inside her new home for the first time, a mountain cottage full of strange smells and empty spaces, and though she’s glad her family has moved closer to her grandmother, she’s a bit overwhelmed that her “whole world changed” in an instant. Margaret, by the way, has some serious sweater game.
Margaret’s parents encourage her to explore the countryside while they unpack, and they send her off with a thermos of hot chocolate (because of course they do). Did I mention author-illustrator Briony May Smith lives and writes in a cottage in Devon, England, overlooking rolling hills and gazing cows? Because of course she does. After reading this book, I’m honestly not sure I’d be happy living anywhere else.
As Margaret tromps through sun-touched fields of purple heather and arrives at the wind-blown seaside, she sees a misty apparition of horses—“no, not horses—unicorns!”—taking to the skies. She learns from her grandmother that the unicorns are making their annual pilgrimage to Unicorn Island, where they will spend the fall and winter before returning in the spring.
Even more astonishing, on her way home, Margaret stumbles across a silvery baby unicorn, accidentally left behind. She wraps the unicorn in her jacket and brings him home. As you do.
Fortunately, Margaret’s grandmother knows a thing or two about caring for unicorns. The two set out into town to procure a bounty of market flowers for his food, then take to introducing him to his temporary new home.
Hydrating the baby unicorn proves a bit trickier, as unicorns must drink “water that has been touched by moonlight,” so as not to lose their magic. Margaret and her father wait until nightfall before collecting buckets of water under a moonlit sky. Sure enough, the baby unicorn’s horn glows softly as he settles into bed with Margaret. The way Briony May Smith plays with light in the book’s illustrations is pretty magical, too.
Margaret’s relationship with the baby unicorn proves reciprocal: with the unicorn for company, Margaret takes to acclimating to her new surroundings with vigor. The two discover secret hiding spots, the delights of cracking open horse chestnuts, and the unpredictable spray foam of the waves. They mark the transition from fall to winter by decorating Christmas trees and baking sugar cookies, filling the new house with familiar smells.
When it snows, Margaret and her dad build a snow unicorn. Because of course they do.
Spring comes and with it buds, shoots, and the knowledge that the unicorn’s family will soon be returning. “When a unicorn is your friend, you wish spring would stay far away.”
But Margaret is not one to shrink from responsibility, so she makes sure to be front and center when the unicorns “floated down from the sky like snowflakes.”
Goodbyes are never easy, even when you know they’re right.
The unicorn leaves Margaret with a full heart, and she is quick to adopt a new (human) friend and enjoy the longer days in and around her new home. And once, she even gets a brief visit from a beautiful, wild unicorn, grown from the baby Margaret once knew and loved.
Now if that doesn’t make your heart grow two sizes, I’m out.
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