Strong Medieval Historical Fiction with a Sprinkling of Fantasy
A Plague of Unicorns
by Jane Yolen
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From bestselling and award-winning author Jane Yolen, this new middle-grade fiction reminds us that heroes come in all sizes.
Young James, an earl’s son, is a bit bothersome and always asking the oddest questions. When the last of his tutors quits, his mother sends him away to be educated at Cranford Abbey. But Cranford Abbey has its own problems.
The Abbey is falling apart. Abbot Aelian believes he can save the abbey with his secret weapon: a recipe for golden apple cider passed down through his family for generations. One obstacle stands in his way—unicorns! Unicorns with very sharp horns that happen to feast specifically on the golden apples.
Cranford Abbey is on the edge of financial ruin. Abbot Aelian’s plan to save it hinges on harvesting a rare variety of apple — the Hallelujah — which grows in the abbey orchard. But a threatening menace stands in the way — unicorns with an insatiable hunger for the golden fruit. Will a hero emerge in time to save the abbey?
Young James Callander is heir to an earl. Curious and garrulous, he’s tried the patience of many a tutor. James’ father, one of the abbey’s greatest benefactors, has gone missing on the battlefield. So when his newest tutor quits, James is sent to the abbey for schooling and protection.
Yolen’s charming medieval tale is told in a style reminiscent of the fables and fairy tales from which she draws inspiration. Though the novel is brief (it was a short story that Yolen decided to revisit and expand), Yolen quickly draws her world and her characters, gains her reader’s interest and sympathy, and packs in plenty of humor and adventure. Illustrations peppered throughout the text add even more appeal, particularly during the section of story where a slew of bumbling heroes attempt to solve the abbey’s unicorn problem.
Parents will be pleased to know there isn’t even a hint of sarcasm in the young protagonist. By contrast, he adores his older sister Alexandria who devotedly honors even the most outrageous of his questions. I love that Alexandria takes James to the family library to help him uncover the answers. And even cooler, she tells him that books are sacred!
It’s a treat to watch James grow in confidence and mastery at the abbey – he eventually learns to find his own answers to most of his questions. But perhaps my favorite aspect of the novel is that the eventual hero is found in an unexpected corner.
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. Strong Medieval Historical Fiction with a Sprinkling of Fantasy.
Simultaneously entertaining, edifying, and inspiring. In addition to teaching a bit of history and a few Latin phrases, Yolen’s A Plague of Unicorns demonstrates to children that even the smallest of us has the capacity to be heroic.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zonderkidz through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”