Wish on a Unicorn

Author: Karen Hessewish on a unicorn

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Mags has a lot of things about her life that she wishes were different. Her family’s dirt poor, living all smooshed together in a little trailer, wearing hand-me-downs. Her mom does the best she can as a single mom, but she’s always working or exhausted, leaving Mags with more work than a kid should have to do–more other responsibilities, too. Like taking care of her six-year-old brother Mooch and sister Hannie who’s a bit slow. It seems like everything changes, somehow, when Hannie finds an old, dirty stuffed unicorn in the field–one that she’s convinced will grant wishes. Well, whether or not that’s true, it’s certain that their family–and Mags’s perspective on it–changes significantly over the days following Hannie’s discovery.

Karen Hesse is a wonderful, insightful author. I first discovered her books when I read Music of Dolphins back in middle school; it blew my mind. Wish on a Unicorn is more subtle–or rather, its uniqueness is less obvious–because it deals with topics closer to home. Maybe we can relate to Mags’s situation personally; if not, I’m sure you’ve known folks in similar circumstances. Regardless of the familiarity, Hesse’s take on this story is actually rather remarkable. She draws out the individuals as well as the complexities of the emotions they’re dealing with in a very touching and believable manner. And–this is something I almost didn’t notice while reading, it’s done that subtly–she writes the entire story in Mags’s own accent and style, complete with intentional grammatical errors. I guess what I’m getting at is that, while many writers could write a story similar to this one, only a master writer could form it so skillfully and movingly. I truly would recommend Wish on a Unicorn to anyone, say, 10 and up.

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