Breaking Stereotypes: A Picture Book Review of You Don’t Want a Unicorn by Amy Dyckman, Illustrated by Liz Climo

I totally missed it.  I hate to admit it, but after reading this book twice with my three year old daughter I totally missed the key to its awesomeness.

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The story is about the dangers of wanting to own a unicorn.  The boy in the tale makes a wish and his unicorn POPS! into existence.  Yet the boy has no idea how much trouble a unicorn can cause.  They shed glitter, poop cupcakes, and burp rainbows!  To make matters worse, they are social creatures and need constant companionship.  So what’s a lonely unicorn to do?  Why, use its magic to summon other unicorns, of course!

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The mischievous unicorns wreak havoc on the little boy’s home.  He has no choice but to wish all the unicorns away.  But the end, which I won’t give away here, shows his childish enthusiasm did not learn its lesson!

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After I read the story with Autumn, age 3, she immediately bounced up and down saying, “Read it again, Daddy!  Read it again!”  Before I could turn the pages back to the beginning, my three sons, ages 7, 9, and 10, came over to listen as well.  When I read it to the whole crew, all four were grinning like a unicorn at a disco!  Autumn asked me to read it yet again, but I had to decline due to approaching hour of bedtime.

I sat on the sofa and processed the book in my brain.  It’s beautiful, no doubt!  The artwork is clear and concise.  I suspect the drawings were started as pencil sketches and then converted to fully digital paintings.  I laughed out loud when I saw the cupcake poop.  I even felt sorry for the boy when he had to wish his unicorn away.  Yet I could’t figure out how I was going to approach this book in my review.  I decided to present it as an awesome bedtime story.  Honestly, the book was just a joy to read.

But then I had an epiphany, and I can not BELIEVE I missed it. The main character, the one who loved unicorns and wanted one of his own, was a BOY!  Talk about breaking down the stereotype.  Once I understood where the writer was going I appreciated the book even more.  Who says boys can’t like unicorns?  I have had many discussions with my kids about gender stereotypes to explain why I sometimes wear pink or why Autumn wants to play football.  We are an open family, but not all families are.  Books like You Don’t Want a Unicorn! can play a pivotal  role for children who don’t fit traditional gender roles or interests.  I will use myself as an example.  I had a doll when I was in pre-school.  It was a little boy named Joey.  He had zippers and buttons and ties.  I loved him!  I carried him around with me where ever I went.  My dad, who at the time was not as open-minded as he is today, did not really care for it.  He did tolerate it, however.  But his tolerance for “girly things” went only so far.  We’ve had a long-running joke in my family that the only present I truly wanted and didn’t receive was an Easy-bake Oven.  We laugh about it now because I’m the cook in the family.  My desire for the oven had nothing to with ANYTHING other than the fact that I wanted to cook.

Books like this one break the mold.  They continue to put cracks in the glass ceiling of our perceptions of gender roles and interests.  Books like this one say, “Love kids for who they are.  Let them spread their wings and fly no matter what interests them.  Let them all have unicorns!”

I loved this book.  Now that I’ve given it full thought, it will have a place of honor on my shelf.  I hope my kids will take away from the story that they don’t have to fit anybody’s mold.  I would rather they help others see that when you chart your own course, you can lead a happy and healthy life.  Highest recommendation!

Teacher Information

This book is simply precious.  Your kids will love it as a read aloud.  If you are concerned that there is a direct political message, don’t be.  The book is simply a fun story about a kid who loves unicorns.  The fact that he’s a boy isn’t discussed at all.  That’s why I missed the value in the story.  I took it for granted that the character was a boy who happened to like unicorns.  Your kids probably will too.  There is no overt agenda here.

In terms of themes, I think the idea of responsibility, especially with pets, is a good starting point.  Another idea is the concept of wishes.  The little boy tosses his coin the fountain and his wish immediately comes true.  Kids won’t understand that wishes don’t work that way.

The publisher has released an excellent story time kit:

http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/_b2c/media/uploads/lbyr/you_don%2527t_want_a_unicorn_storytime_kit.pdf

 

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