Kids save the day and the unicorns in the exciting finale to the Unicorn Island trilogy, which I’d classify as not-quite-middle-grade.
Unicorn Island: Beyond the Portal
by Donna Galanti. Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe.
Review copy kindly sent by the author.
The previous book of this series, Secret Beneath the Sand, ended very appropriately with the revelation of some big secrets – including a magical portal to the original home of the unicorns, from which they had escaped to the safety of Unicorn Island. Our girl Sam also learned that her mother has been trapped on the other side of the portal since Sam was a baby. Now, Sam and her best friend Tuck develop their research skills by searching through the secret unicorn protector library for a way to open the portal so that they can find her mother. Sam may have lived her life so far first unaware that she didn’t know her mother and then that her mother might still be alive – but now, she needs to find her.
Once through the portal, though, their problems are many, starting with a very short time window in which to make it back through the portal and avoid leaving their respective parents stuck not knowing what’s happened to them. Unicorns are still being hunted in this land, putting Sam’s young unicorn friend Barloc in even more danger than they’d thought when he decided to come along. Most horrifying of all, Sam’s mother is easily found – the hunter who’s tracking Barloc! How could her mother have so betrayed her unicorn protector roots, and is there any way to win her back?? This turned out to be a tough moral dilemma of the sort that’s very rarely shown in literature for children of this age (I’d guess about 9 or 10.) It’s combined with a threat to the local water supply, a timely issue, if painted in broad strokes here. Happily and appropriately for the audience, the kids are able to find a solution that works for everyone when the adults couldn’t.
Once again, Donna Galanti pens an exciting tale sure to inspire young readers to keep turning the pages, while Bethany Stancliffe’s bright illustrations enhance the emotional beats of the story, show Sam and Tuck’s frustration, fear, excitement, and betrayal. There’s enough going on to keep it interesting for adults reading aloud to younger children as well. This remains an engaging series for the almost-middle grade set, one I think will see a lot of use in my daughter’s school library.
Katy, thank you so much for reading Beyond the Portal and for such a wonderful, in-depth review! I’m glad you enjoyed the end of the series. I agree, Bethany Stancliffe’s illustrations truly bring the story and emotions to life.
You’re welcome, Donna! Thank you for the writing the books!
Glad you enjoyed the last book in this series so much. I really enjoyed the first book in the series and need to read the other two.
I’d love to hear what you think of the other two!