Tuesday, December 28, 2021

When You Adopt a Pugicorn or Why I Probably Can't Be Trusted to Review Picture Books

Rose, Matilda and Budgen, Tim. When You Adopt a Pugicorn
September 7th 2021 by Harry N. Abrams
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

In Fairyland, it is standard practice for young princes and princesses to adopt unicorns from the Haven for Magical Pets, but there are supply chain issues. While some of the royalty manage to get the pet of their dreams, there are no unicorns remaining for Princess Ava. Instead, she must settle for a pugicorn. While he is adorable, he does not fit Ava's preconceived ideas for a pet, since he lacks the shining mane and swishing tale she has her heart set on. Ava encourages her new companion to "Think unicorn!", but this proves to be a less successful strategy as Pugicorn tries and fails to keep up with actual unicorns during various royal endeavors. In a snit, Ava declares that Pugicorn is the worst unicorn ever, and refuses to take him to the Unicorn Picnic. Pugicorn is devastated, and Ava has a decent time at the picnic until it is time to go home. Failing to plan ahead, she and the other royalty are caught in the woods after dark. The unicorns cower in fear and are no help at all, but the group is saved by the efforts of Pugicorn, who comes to the rescue with his shining horn and intrepid demeanor. Now that her pet has saved the day, Ava decides that she shouldn't have tried to change him, and pugicorns become the hot new pet in Fairyland.

This is a charming book for preschool children, who will be delighted with the cuteness of Pugicorn, and revel in the royal escapades. They will also not be deterred by the somewhat twee names like Twinkleton-Under-Beanstalk and Flutter Toes. I'm not sure that this will dissuade them from liking unicorns, and I personally feel that unicorns get a bad rap in this book. Why do their horns not shine? Why are they not good in a crisis? Explanations are needed.

I also feel like Pugicorn's story could have taken an interesting dark turn, where he abandons Ava and her cronies in the forest and instead moves to a neighboring kingdom and works to amplify the voices of underappreciated pugicorns everywhere, but then I usually read middle grade books. Preschoolers will learn that they should appreciate fellow beings for their own innate qualities and not expect them to be something that they are not. They will understand Ava's snit but still rally behind Pugicorn, and be super excited to find that Matilda Rose has other titles such as Pandarina, Starwhal, and Kitticorn, and that Shannon Hale and Leuyen Pham have Itty-Bitty Kittycorn. Pair this with Moore's very amusing Stuff Unicorns Love for extra special crunchy fun!

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