Phoebe has been best friends with Marigold Heavenly Nostrils for almost a year now. Her name isn’t the strangest thing about Marigold, that would be the fact that she’s a unicorn. A hopelessly vain, egotistical unicorn. Still, she’s a great friend to nerdy Phoebe. In this book, the two take on rollerskating, a unicorn birthday party, a school play, and more.
Phoebe and her unicorn have been compared—justifiably, I think—to Calvin and Hobbes. Phoebe is a funny, believable everykid, while Marigold provides that whimsical not-a-human touch. This series may not be as emotionally deep, or as visually detailed, as Watterson’s classic comics, but they sometimes give off a similar vibe, especially when the protagonists are wandering in the woods. A notable difference: there is nothing ambiguous about Marigold’s state of existence. Everyone knows about Phoebe’s friend the unicorn. The technology is also more current, but without being specific enough to immediately date the comics. For example, Phoebe has a smartphone and her dad plays video games, but the brand and model of both are unspecified.
There’s some very clever humor here. Phoebe muses about the weird sides of capitalism as the show Pastel Unicorns keeps changing the characters just enough to make her want to get new toys. Marigold pursues her crush, Lord Splendid Humility, despite the fact that he is too humble to allow himself to be seen by anyone. Phoebe’s parents remain remarkably blasé about their daughter spending most of her time with a unicorn, though her mom complains that, “I keep getting banned from online parenting groups for ‘making things up.’”
The art is clear and colorful. Characters are expressive, underscoring some of their funny moments with cartoonishly over-the-top expressions. Marigold is drawn with an exaggerated elegance that makes it especially funny when she does something undignified, while Phoebe is short, freckly, a little messy, and very human. Her parents and classmates have a variety of body types, hairstyles, and fashion senses that make them feel real and relatable. The characters tend to take up most of the panels, so backgrounds are usually simple.
At the end of the book is a fun little section with tips on drawing facial expressions, origami instructions, and a recipe for sparkly unicorn poop cookies.
Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure, vol. 2
by Dana Simpson
AMP! Comics for Kids, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 yrs.