Jonty’s Unicorn

Jonty's Unicorn

Jonty’s Unicorn











Jonty’s Unicorn

Rebecca Fraser

ifwg Publishing, 2024

140pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99


In the quiet hamlet of Blaxby in the Kingdom of Irrawene, twelve-year-old Jonty Fairskye’s mother is gravely ill. A tonic from Dagatha, the fearsome witch who dwells in the dark heart of the Terrenwild Woods may be her only hope, but everyone knows Dagatha’s cures cost dearly — both in gold and regret.

Determined to save her mother, Jonty resolves to enter the King’s Annual Horse Race on her beloved horse, Onyx. The prize, a pouch of gold — more than enough to pay Dagatha. When Jonty discovers Rose, an injured unicorn, during a woodland training session, she is wonderstruck. There hasn’t been a unicorn sighting in Irrawene for over a century. Jonty smuggles Rose back to the safety of her barn to recover.

As the great horse race draws closer, disaster strikes and Jonty is forced to make a decision that will impact the lives of everyone she loves. Danger and betrayal lurk around every corner, and Jonty will learn that the true meaning of kindness and bravery comes down to how much you’re willing to sacrifice.

If ever there were a stereotypical entry into the world of fantasy for young readers, then this would be it. From setting to situation to characters to plot, it has all the hallmarks of what you expect from this genre for this age group from the ailing parent and the young child down to their last pennies; the possibility of a cure from the wicked witch who lives deep in the forest but at a cost too much to pay; the possibility of winning the money; the child ready to save the parent whatever it takes;  the disaster, the disappointment, the redemption – and of course, a magical unicorn.  But this is not a bad thing for the newly independent reader because it confirms and brings to life all those mind-pictures that they have formed already from listening to such stories and seeing illustrations in picture books.  Beautifully descriptive, here, in words alone, are all the things that have been imagined and now they can read them for themselves and solidify that platform they have built, perhaps even extending their reading by seeking others in the same genre.  

It also has the classic plot structure of a novel for younger readers with problems, possible solutions, complications and suspense to the final resolution making it an ideal way to introduce this longer format and the value in persevering rather than expecting the story to be done and dusted in one sitting like a picture book or television episode, while the underlying perennial message of being resilient and standing up for what is right is also strong as it carries the story along

Perhaps a little more expensive than other paperbacks, nevertheless its value as a mentor text for examining the tropes of this genre, the construction of a plot, and descriptive language that would enable even the lousiest artist like me to construct a mental or physical image of the setting and the characters, and its potential to extend the readers interest to find similar stories,  make it a worthwhile investment. 

The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn

The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn

The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn











The Daredevil Princess and the Golden Unicorn

Belinda Murrell

Rebecca Crane

Puffin, 2024

144pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Mathilda Amalia Charlotte Adelaide Rose – known to all as Tillie except for Mr Grimm the pompous stickler-for-manners royal steward – lived a relaxed life with her parents, Queen Cordelia who ruled the queendom of Blumenfeld, King Edwin her absent-minded inventor father and Prince Oskar, her younger brother, a would-be, swashbuckling knight. 

Even though her mother has to wear the heavy, uncomfortable crown today because her everyday crown is missing, she is more concerned about the theft of roses from the royal gardens, particularly because tomorrow is the Summer Harvest Festival  and the palace roses are the feature.  She orders the thief to be found and to be thrown in the dungeon for a year and a day.  But who is the thief? And why steal roses AND the palace peacocks?   Princess Tillie is determined to discover them before the festival is ruined…

Belinda Murrell who gave a previous wave of newly independent readers the wonderful Lulu Bell series, has created a new collection for the next generation of young girls who are consolidating their skills, this time building on that recurring dream of being a princess, but being bold and brave and independent and encouraged to do so despite the presence of Mr Grimm and Miss Prim. With all the supports that these emerging readers need including short chapters, larger font, and a few strategic illustrations, this is one that will have wide appeal, with The Goblin King already available, and The Fire Dragon and The Grumpy Goblin due in the next few months

Dear Unicorn

Dear Unicorn

Dear Unicorn











Dear Unicorn

Josh Funk

Charles Santoso

Viking, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A32.99


It is the beginning of the school year and Connie’s art class is partnering up with pen pals. Both Connie and Nic’s teachers encourage them to to ask their pen pals questions, to talk about their own lives, to be creative, share their likes and dislikes and to enjoy themselves. Even though Connie is a little reluctant to start with, soon both love exchanging letters despite the two of them seeming so very different. Connie takes her art seriously and thinks things like kittens are nothing more than a distraction, while Nic has a more whimsical approach to painting and knows the value of a good cupcake. Both are eagerly awaiting the end of year pen pal art festival where their two classes will finally meet, but what is the surprise that is in store for both of them?

Building on the original concept of Dear Dragon, the story has some clever wordplay (like Connie’s surname summing up her pessimistic outlook) that leads to some misunderstandings that carry both the letter-writing and the story along, and young readers will immerse themselves in the fantasy particularly as, through the illustrations, they can see what Connie and Nic don’t.  What would it like to have a friend such as Nic? Can we be friends with those who seem to be so different from us (even if that is not as extreme as this relationship?)

As well as being useful for exploring the essential give-and-take nature of relationships, and how we can learn from those around us to seek common bonds despite being unique individuals, the book also opens up the almost-extinct concept of penpals, letter-writing and the anticipation of a letter in the mailbox.  Perhaps it will be the spark for building some new connections between classes in this new school year, 


Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure

 Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure

Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure












Pick a Story: A Dinosaur Unicorn Robot Adventure

Sarah Coyle

Adam Walker-Parker

Farshore, 2023

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99


Gwen was very excited about having a fancy-dress birthday party,  the decorations are up and the food set out.  But suddenly the birthday cake that Dad has made disappears!  Who has taken it?

Well, that depends on what the reader decides because depending on whether they choose the unicorn, robot or dinosaur they are taken on a different adventure, each time being able to choose the next chapter in their story.

While choose-your-own adventures have been in novel format for years and been immensely popular because of all the possibilities they open up, a picture book format is unusual. Young readers will love the interactivity that takes them beyond the more familiar lift-the-flap and gives them the power to decide the direction of the story.  And when one is told, they can return to the beginning and start another…  The power of choice.

There are three in this series now – a pirate/alien/jungle/adventure already available and a dragon/mermaid/superhero adventure to be released in time for Christmas – so all those characters that young readers love are covered and they can follow all sorts of paths and trails through the stories. Putting the reader in the writer’s seat is empowering and they might even be able to suggest a new combination or adventure, teaching them that they can not only be readers but writers too.  



Unicorn’s Christmas





Unicorn's Christmas

Unicorn’s Christmas











Unicorn’s Christmas

Lucy Golden

RHUS Children’s, 2021

12pp., board book., RRP $A14.99


It’s almost Christmas! Unicorn is so excited, but there’s still a lot to do: make a list for Santa, decorate the tree, make cookies, and more!

But this is a book with a twist… literally!  For within the text there are blanks, almost like a cloze activity, and the reader has to turn the wheel to find the best word to fit the context.  Helped by an illustration of each word so it is easily read, they can either make a story that is fun but doesn’t really make sense, or they can use the cues and clues to predict what is just right for the gap.

So apart from being a story featuring a familiar character doing all those things that herald that special day, it really encourages the young reader to focus their attention and use their existing knowledge to create the story so it makes sense, an essential concept about print and pre-requisite to reading. Physically turning a wheel adds another dimension to the fun, making this one of the most unique Christmas books for our youngest readers.  

Little Unicorn’s Christmas





Little Unicorn's Christmas

Little Unicorn’s Christmas











Little Unicorn’s Christmas

Rhiannon Fielding

Chris Chatterton

Ladybird, 2021

28pp., board book, RRP $A14.99


It’s Christmas Eve and there are just ten minutes to bedtime, and Dad is on the countdown.  But Twinkle, the little unicorn, is still playing in the snow and something above not only catches her eye, but suddenly lands among the trees! It’s Father Christmas and he has a problem – his lead reindeer is in bed with reindeer flu and there are now only eight minutes to bed with 22 countries and hundreds of presents still to deliver.  Can Twinkle help?  Could this be the adventure of a lifetime?

This series  is the perfect countdown to bedtime and this is the most charming story that will lull little ones to sleep with magical ideas in their head to inspire their dreams.  With its rhyme which flows naturally, stunning illustrations and the countdown, it is perfect to share on THAT night when sleep eludes us all because of the excitement and anticipation.  

And this new board book format means that little hands and heads will be able to read it again and again and it will stand up to the wear and tear.  Love it. 

Unipiggle (series)













Unicorn Muddle


Dragon Trouble


Hannah Shaw

Usborne 2020

128pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99

Welcome to Twinkleland Kingdom, where everything is 100% perfect. Except Princess Pea – she loves getting muddy and having fun and she’s not keen on choosing her own perfect unicorn at the Royal Unicorn Parade. Until the final unicorn turns out to be a podgy, pongy, proud, magic-horned…pig? And so the adventures of Princess Pea and Unipiggle begin!

This is a new series that will appeal to younger readers who prefer their princesses and unicorns to be a little bit different – definitely not your stereotypes. whether read independently or as a bedtime read-together, the bright bold illustrations will capture the imagination and have the readers seeing themselves as Princess Pea. 

With a new addition due in June, this is a series that can help younger readers transition from picture books and basal readers to the next step of their reading journey.


Where’s Peppa’s Magical Unicorn?

Where's Peppa's Magical Unicorn?

Where’s Peppa’s Magical Unicorn?










Where’s Peppa’s Magical Unicorn?

Ladybird, 2020

10pp., board book, RRP $A14.99


Peppa wants to play with her magical unicorn but she can’t find her anywhere! Is she hiding at the castle, the beach, or the end of the rainbow?

Peppa Pig and her family continue to be popular with our youngest readers and this interactive book is a new adventure that not only draws on familiar characters so it is easy for them to become immersed in the story straight away but also helps the transition from screen to print.  Not only does the child have some power over the story as they lift the flaps to discover where the unicorn is hiding, but they can also return to it again and again.  Even if they know what is hidden, the power of predicting and being right is exhilarating making this sort of format a read-and-read-again one. Perfect for beginning to build those critical concepts about print that are the foundations of reading.

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas










Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Christmas

Lou Carter

Nikki Dyson

Orchard, 2019

32pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99


Oscar the unicorn is always hungry and on Christmas Eve he is eating his way through the palace Christmas preparations.  The stockings, the tree the presents… But the trouble really starts when he eats the reindeer food meaning the reindeer no longer have their magic power to fly.  How will Santa deliver the presents?

This is a bright captivating tale that will enchant our youngest readers as they continue the Christmas Countdown to that special night. There is lots of humorous detail in the pictures, particularly the one focusing on Christmas morning and this is likely to be one that is requested again and again.  

Unicorn Academy (series)

Unicorn Academy (series)

Unicorn Academy (series)











Unicorn Academy (series)

Julie Sykes

Lucy Truman

Nosy Crow, 2019

112pp., pbk, RRP $A12.99


Imagine a school where you meet your own unicorn and have amazing adventures together! That’s what happens for the girls at Unicorn Academy on beautiful Unicorn Island. There are 12 books in the series  (some still to be released), the latest being Ariana And Whisper.

Written for younger independent readers, the series appeals to those for whom unicorns remain a fascination and who dream of having their own one day, a fascination that shows no signs of abating.  Such series are very popular with younger readers just starting their reading journey through novels as they associate with and invest themselves in the characters, putting themselves in their shoes and truly immersing themselves in the experiences.  They form relationships with them that mean they are eager to read and re-read each one in the series, honing their skills and understandings of reading as they do so. So this is a series that will have a strong following because it features all those characteristics that hook these emerging readers in.  Worth the investment, not just for themselves but the reading pathways  that keen readers will then follow.