Unicorn Island by Donna Galanti, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Number of pages: 224
Publishing: February 9th, 2021
Sam's mother is a traveling musician and her latest tour will take her to Europe. Sam, however won't be going with, instead she is being sent to live with her Uncle Mitch in Foggy Harbor, South Carolina. Sam is reluctant to move to Foggy Harbor, thinking it can't compare to where she lives now with her mom. Plus, Sam hardly even knows her Uncle Mitch and he certainly can't know much about her either. Upon arriving in Foggy Harbor, Sam is surprised by her Uncle Mitch's grumpiness, it's almost like it he didn't even know that his niece was coming to stay with him. Sam tries hard to stay out of his way, entertaining herself by investigating the small town. Sam soon meets a boy named Tuck, Tuck's mom is the local veterinarian, and the two quickly hit it off. Sam invites Tuck over to her uncle's house and while exploring, they discover a trap door and a hidden storage unit filled with her Uncle Mitch's mementos, including a picture of Sam's aunt, white tufts of hair and a mysterious clock. When Sam's uncle catches them rifling through his things, he vows to send Sam back to her mom. Then late at night, Sam observes him taking the row boat out into the fog. When he doesn't return by the next morning, Sam convinces Tuck to help her try and find her uncle.
Unicorn Island is the first book in a new series by Donna Galanti. The story is fairly straight forward, a girl discovers a mysterious island filled with unicorns that have been shrouded behind a mist of fog. The mystery of the story is how Sam's uncle became the fog keeper, responsible for tending to and protecting the unicorns. There's also a little tension when one of the newborn's falls ill and Sam's uncle doesn't know how to heal him. The full color illustrations by Bethany Stancliffe, are bright and provide just the right atmospheric qualities to the story, capturing the misty fog, stormy waters, and quiet beach town. I especially like the darker ones of the fog, then the contrast with the bright town. The ending alludes to new dangers awaiting Sam and Tuck in the next book and overall this is a nice transition for a reader wanting to move up to more advanced books. It kind of reminded me of The Creature of the Pines from Adam Gidwitz's The Unicorn Rescue Society. Included at the end of the book are details about the history of unicorns, pirates in the Carolina's, even details about island's that house wild horses. With plenty of kid appeal, I'd happily gift this to a younger reader interested in unicorns.
Excerpt from Unicorn Island
In New York City, lights twinkled across Sam’s ceiling all night long. She had never felt lonely there,
knowing the city was awake with her. She could already tell Foggy Harbor was different. It looked like
the loneliest place ever. Why would anyone live here on purpose? she wondered.
The driver pulled into the bus station. A neon sign that should have flashed Foggy Harbor Parking
was missing most of its letters. BOR . . . ING. Some sign, she thought. I’m already bored here.
“You got someone picking you up, Miss?” the driver asked as he pulled her suitcase from the luggage compartment.
Her t-shirt clung to her in the heavy, muggy air. Sam checked her phone for the address Mom had given her: 1 Foggy Way.
“My uncle lives a block from here,” she said, pointing at the street sign.
The driver nodded and pulled out of the station, leaving her under the broken sign. Sam texted Mom one word out of duty: ARRIVED. With no choice but to find her new home, she adjusted her backpack and popped up her suitcase handle, dragging it along. It clickety-clacked all the way down the quiet street.
Uncle Mitch’s stone house sat at the end, alone and secluded, hugging the ocean. Its sloped roof pierced the murky sky. One light glowed in a back window. Crickets trilled around the house, creating an eerie buzz as waves lapped the shore.
Sam crunched over the walking path made of shells, then thumped up the front porch steps and rang the doorbell, eager to escape the empty night.
After a few minutes, the door was yanked open. A tall man with curly black hair and a bushy mustache loomed over Sam, the porch light deepening his frown. “Yes?”
Sam swallowed hard. “Uncle Mitch?”
His eyes grew wide and he pulled her inside, slamming the door. “Samantha? What are you doing here?”
Cool air washed over her from a ceiling fan that whirred above, and she shivered, shrinking under his glare. Then she remembered what Mom had said: He’s the only family we’ve got.
Giveaway runs February 9th at 12a.m. through
February 15th at 11:45p.m. USA and Canada only.
The Unicorn Island Prize Package includes:
$25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Unicorn LED night light and key chain
Unicorn stickers, 2 pencils, 2 erasers
Bookmarks and autographed bookplate
One winner will be chosen at random within 48 hours after the contest ends. The winner’s first name and last initial will be posted on the contest page automatically and the author will email the winner to get their address to ship the prizes.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
About the Author:
Donna Galanti is the author of the middle grade adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road, which the Midwest Book Review called, “A heart-pounding thrill ride full of unexpected twists and turns from start to finish”. She’s also the author of the follow up, Joshua and the Arrow Realm, and writes the popular Unicorn Island series for Epic, the leading digital platform for kids 12 and under. Donna is a writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com, a member of From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors blog, and regularly presents as a guest author at schools. She also loves teaching at writing conferences on marketing and craft and through her Udemy online courses. Donna has lived in England as a child, her family-owned campground in New Hampshire, and Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Visit her at donnagalanti.com.
Thanks so much for having me on today with Unicorn Island! I so appreciate the read and review! The next book, Secret Beneath the Sand, comes out this May in a 5-part serial on Epic, the leading digital platform for kids, and then hardcover next winter. Good luck everyone with entering the giveaway!
This sounds like a fun read. I'm looking forward to hopefully getting it from my library. A huge congrats to Donna!
I'm pretty sure every kid loves unicorns. Fun idea for a novel!
It was fun to write, too, Deb! Thanks so much :)
Thanks so much Natalie! Hope you enjoy it :)
Thanks Deb! Unicorns are magical--and kids love magic :)
So happy to see Unicorn Island here! I read and enjoyed it too. Perfect for young readers- especially with the colorful pictures!
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