If you have read any of the previous three volumes of the Phoebe and her Unicorn adventures, then you are well versed in Dana Simpson’s deadpan and highly entertaining series about a girl and her unicorn best friend. In volume four, Phoebe and Marigold debate the merits of human versus unicorn holidays, and Marigold develops a serious case of sparkle jealousy towards the family’s Christmas tree. Thanksgiving and summer also make appearances in this volume that fast forwards through Phoebe’s school year to back to her summer camp for budding musicians and the friends that she made in volume three. Appearances are also made by Phoebe’s parents, her frenemy Dakota, the goblin Blart, her best (human) friend Max, her best summer camp friend Sue, and the refined and gentlemanly lake monster Ringo.
Phoebe and her Unicorn originally appeared as a webcomic, then as a syndicated newspaper strip, and subsequently the narrative is told in shortly plotted interludes that most often take place in four panels on a page. Only rarely does a particular episode last more than a page or two. Storylines in this fourth volume are ongoing from the first three, but children can read this series in any order and still understand what is at its heart: a story of friendship between a girl and her unicorn.
Dana Simpson’s art is simple and whimsical. Since she is both the writer and the artist, the pictures and words flow seamlessly. In fact, in the back of the book she walks readers through her creative process from rough draft to finished panel. The characters in the story are the artist’s main focus in each of the panels, while the backgrounds are most frequently shaded colors, a few trees, or a piece of furniture that helps to designate the common locales of summer camp, Phoebe’s school, or her home. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of sparkles both on the cover and inside the book to satisfy fans.
This book will appeal to elementary school kids and middle school readers. Fans of unicorns, graphic novels about unusual friendships, and connoisseurs of Calvin and Hobbes will find a lot to love here. The surface level plot is enough to keep casual and beginning readers interested, but the diction is diverse and full of interesting words for older readers to munch on. There are also inside jokes and nuggets to be found throughout the book for older readers.
This might be volume four, but Phoebe and Her Unicorn just keeps on rolling. As the world expands with more friends and experiences we get to see Phoebe grapple with more complex social interactions, family developments, and deep life musings all the while with her best friend, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, at her side. Unicorns truly are a girl’s best friend.
Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and her Unicorn Adventure, vol. 4
by Dana Simpson
Art by Dana Simpson
Publisher Age Rating: All ages