Sunday, February 5, 2023

Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker

Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker
by J.C. Phillipps
Recommended Ages: 10+

Pacey is a full-of-herself little girl who fantasizes about being a hero. In real life, however, she doesn't have much time to play make-believe with her little sister, Mina. After being a little strict with her sister, she decides to relent and bring Mina a cookie – only to catch her jumping out an upstairs window on the back of a full-size, flesh-and-blood unicorn. When I say "catch," I actually mean "fail to catch," as her grip actually closes on the hoof of Mina's favorite toy, a plush unicorn with a heart-shaped blaze on its chest and the unlikely name of Slasher.

Until now, Pacey has never given a moment's thought to the idea that Slasher may actually be alive, as Mina has always claimed. Luckily, it is so, because Slasher becomes her guide through the land of the unicorns, where the landscape is full of such hazards as people-eating plants, deceptive creatures, deep gorges, and tiny tunnels you can only get through by shrinking yourself and tickling the tail of a turbo-powered slug. But the biggest danger lies ahead at the castle of the Unicorn King, Arkane, who has magic in his horn but evil in his heart.

Much of the book takes the form of Pacey and Slasher bickering and exchanging sarcastic quips. But even though Mina's invitation to Arkane's tea party has a sinister element in it, and Slasher's loyalty leaves something to be desired, girl and plushie grow as characters during their adventure together and pull off a rescue worthy of a unicorn and his girl.

I enjoyed this book's humor and the incongruous cuteness and snippiness of Slasher. I'd have liked it better, I think, if the art had featured more colors than grayscale and shades of purple. I have to be careful to limit my exposure to Slasher, or else I might become one of those people who has to buy the real-life plushie offered on the author's website.

This is the first in a series of four, let's call them graphic chapter books for young readers. Kind of like a comic book (no prose between illustrations), but in the same hardcover format as the Wimpy Kid books. The other installments, so far, include Horn Slayer, Mermaids vs. Unicorns and Dragon Rider. Author-illustrator Phillipps, who dedicated this book to her husband "who thought it was funny to tell people that I love unicorns," is also the author of three children's picture books, Wink, Monkey Ono and The Simples Love a Picnic.

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