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Review: Two Phoebe and Her Unicorn Books

The Magic Storm Cropped

Unicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure
Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm (out October 2017)
By Dana Simpson
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Ages 7-12

Unicorn CrossingDana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn books are delightful stories about a young girl Phoebe, and her unicorn, Marigold. Phoebe is pretty much of an everygirl, while Marigold has, shall we say, a healthy sense of self-esteem. Fortunately for us mere mortals, she remains invisible most of the time behind her Shield of Boringness.

Unicorn Crossing is a collection of one-page gag strips, most of them four panels. The gags are self-contained but tend to revolve around a particular topic for several strips—Halloween, a trip to the beach, and often, Phoebe’s relationship with her classmates, Dakota and Max. Dakota is a curly-haired wannabe alpha girl who is often accompanied by a goblin, and while she’s snobby and tries to be mean, she never really manages to be hurtful. Max is another common archetype, the nerdy science boy.

The Magic Storm CoverThe Magic Storm, on the other hand, has a single storyline and is written as a graphic novel, rather than a series of gags. Phoebe and Marigold solve a mystery—the town’s power has gone out and the ambient magic that Marigold usually taps into has disappeared as well, leaving the unicorn visible to ordinary people. Dakota and Max are back; now Dakota is being carried in a paladin by the goblins, while Max’s hand-drawn map of the city’s electric grid ends up coming in pretty handy. With a bit of help from the goblins, the friends find the cause of the problems, a hungry dragon who is eating all the electricity because she is sad and lonely. She and Max turn out to be a perfect pair, and the problem is solved.

The Phoebe books are good fun, but Simpson quietly slips in a few points about accepting differences, handling emotions, and where electricity comes from. There’s also a glossary of the more difficult words used in the story, which is a nice touch, as it allows Simpson to let her characters use longer words. And while Dakota and Max hew fairly close to the school-story archetypes of mean girl and boy genius, Phoebe has a nice way of not rising to Dakota’s bait, making her a good role model for kids her age.

The Phoebe and Her Unicorn books strike a nice balance of being fun for kids, with sparkliness and silliness, but intelligent enough for an adult to enjoy as well, making Phoebe and Marigold a truly all ages series.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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