Book Review: The Lady and the Unicorn by Béatrice Fontanel and Vanessa Hié
Book Title: The Lady and the Unicorn
Author: Béatrice Fontanel
Illustrator: Vanessa Hié
Published Date: March 15 2022
NOTE: This book review is based on a ARC (Advanced Reading Copy)
Number of Pages: 48
Book Rating: 3/5
For my Star review system information click here.
Gallop into the mythical world of this beautifully illustrated and educational picture book adventure about love, magic, and art history, inspired by the Unicorn Tapestries held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Cluny Museum in Paris.
The Lady and the Unicorn invites young readers into an enchanting tale of a unicorn who must outsmart a lord and his huntsmen. When the unicorn finds his way into a secret garden in the forest, he discovers a young lady who just may have powers more magical than his own.
Children will be drawn in by the vibrant illustrations and captivated by the detailed scenes of the unicorn and his forest friends and foes. Parents will love how the book connects the illustrations to the symbols and meanings of the original Unicorn Tapestries, which were created in the Middle Ages. Kids and adults alike are sure to return to this beautifully illustrated and engaging story again and again.
* Disclaimer: I start all my reviews with this disclaimer. I might not have liked a book but that doesn't mean you won't. We all read books differently based on personal opinions, personal preferences, personal life experiences, etc. Same goes for me loving a book, you might not feel the same way and that's completely OK! The beauty of reading is that no book will be read the same way. Hell, sometimes even reading a book a second time will make it hit completely differently or make me question why I liked it in the first place. All this to say, I hope that reading my reviews can help you learn more about the book and why I felt the way I did, and then help you decide based on your personal preferences if the book would be a good fit for you or not.
With Children's picture books I feel there is 3 main components to look at; Illustrations, Story and message. My reviews for children's books start with my overall views and then are divided into those three sections.
The first thing I noted was that this book was a translation. I had an inkling it might be based on the authors and illustrators names and as such I took a look at the beginning of the books to confirm. When works are translated I feel this can play a part as a badly translated work can sometimes influence the storytelling. In this case I don't think it did too much. Some places lacked a bit of flow (I assume in French the wording would fit a bit better together) but overall it still evoked the imagery and whimsical feel I think was intended for this story.
One quick thing I am a bit unsure of for a child audience is some of the wording choices. Words like "riotous" I feel would be hard for children to fully grasp? I don't think it would necessarily impact kids from enjoying it but it might stop them from fully grasping some elements of the story? Maybe this was intentional in order to make it also engaging to the parents reading it?
The other thing I was unsure of was the ending, it seemed a bit abrupt to me? Again a child would likely not care about "insta love" as the romance reader community would call it but for me it was a bit jarring. The over all messaging (which I will cover below) seemed so different then the sudden "they fell in love" situation at the end. I won't say more as to not spoil the story (especially since it's an ARC) but it was a bit jarring to me. Even after reading the "about the painting" section at the end (which I LOVED by the way) I still couldn't see a direct reason for that ending or the sudden love connection. I feel like it could have ended in a more meaningful way.
With those downsides out of the way it was a very cute story! I liked how the authors based it so closely to the original tapestries and that they included that ending section which really tied the story together. I also love how they used symbolism to create their story. This is something I can see that would make this book good for cross over appeal for older children. Maybe even used in classrooms as part of a lesson plan introducing kids to medieval ages or what symbolism is. One of my favorite elements included was the flower symbolism they included, mostly because I've always found the language of flowers and how people used to exchange them as message fascinating.
So overall, great engaging story which I think would make the kids imagination work and keep them interested throughout. Also some elements which will keep adults interested and great opportunities for discussions with kids about the story and content material.
These were so well made! 5 out of 5 stars. The illustrator had a perfect blend of keeping a similar style to medival-esk paintings but also making it engaging for younger audiences of today. I also loved the details in the illustrations and how sometimes when you took a moment to look you noticed something which was invisible at first glance.
I also liked the used of the background for the text. Specifically when the text background first changed from white to black right when a "high intensity" moment happened. I like seeing illustrations work with the text instead of being a separate entity.
Lastly I loved the movement of the illustrations how they were two dimensional but used the page in such a way and used such poses that it drew the eye on important things and have the feeling of movement.
I liked how the messaging was layered. There was the main story of the unicorn but also underlining tones of greed, the environment, respecting nature, how our actions as humans impact those around us, and being kind to others.
For the messaging it was a solid 4 out of 5 stars. I liked the messages and I think they are important ones but I am not sure the execution of them was all it could be.
Overall great book, great story, and I loved how they based it off real historical tapestries. Some elements while great didn't completely blow me away hence the 4 star rating but I would recommend this book! It was really fun and quite enjoyable! Until next time,