Books for Kids · Reading

“The Unicorn in the Barn” Review

“My Dad always told me, “Never surprise somebody swinging a hammer; something is liable to get smashed.”

So begins The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline K. Ogburn. Not sure where I first came across this as a “recommended book,” but it seemed likely to appeal to Ivy and I suggested it as a gift idea to my folks. They gave it to her at Christmas but with a few minor warnings (they pre-read it), and so I decided to read it before turning Ivy loose. Obviously, it’s taken me awhile since it’s now mid-March.

In brief, this is the story of Eric Harper and his new neighbors, the veterinarian Dr. Brancusi and her daughter, Allegra. Things do not get off to a terribly good start between Eric, who is roughly Allegra’s age, and his new neighbors. They have, after all, just purchased the home and lands that used to belong to his Grandmother who has just moved into a nursing home. They’ve also changed everything about the old farmhouse and inadvertently stuck “No Trespassing” signs on his treehouse tree, which is clearly still on land his father owns. To take the cake…Allegra’s not very nice.

Eric’s attitude towards the Brancusi’s and their new veterinarian clinic changes, however, when he discovers that they are secretly treating an astonishing clientele. In addition to caring for cats, dogs, and ferrets, some of their patients are of a more remarkable nature: talking cheshire cats, for example. And a unicorn. It is the unicorn, especially, which draws Eric and the Brancusis together. Theirs is a secret that must be kept…unless the strange nature of Harper’s Woods isn’t as much of a secret as they suspect?

The Unicorn in the Barn was a fine read and I think Ivy will really enjoy it. It’s sprinkled throughout with cute illustrations and moves along with fairly straightforward writing; not too flowery or complicated, but competently done. For my taste, not a lot happens in this book, but this is a personal thing (just ask my wife whose books are often guilty of this same malady) and there are lots of characterizations and personal relationships built into the story. I would recommend it…but with similar warnings to those my parents gave me. There are three and they all stood out, not for their severity, but their oddity; all seemed very out of place.

Eric’s older brother Steve makes a one-off comment about checking out their attractive waitress because, even though he already has a girlfriend, “it doesn’t hurt to look.” Also, Eric’s dad smokes and Eric makes a positive comment about how good he thinks cigarettes smell. And there is one brief volley of foul language by some hunters late in the story. Again, none of these are dramatic, but they stood out to me in a children’s book and I wondered why they needed to be included (I would, for example, not feel compelled to portray smoking cigarettes in a positive light to my 9 year old readers).

Profanity2As I said before, a couple he**s and one instance of taking Christ’s name in vain, all congregated in the span of a page or two.
Violence2Spoiler alert: there’s an accidental gunshot, but it’s not serious, though there is blood mentioned. Other minor scuffles between animals or the two primary kids, but nothing serious.
Sex/Romantic Themes1Other than the one odd comment mentioned above there was nothing. 
MiscellaneousJust the odd comment on smoking that I mentioned above.

NOTE: As always, my content notes are for informational purposes, not judgmental ones. For a full explanation of my Content Notes and the scale, click here


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