Pacey Packer, as shown in the dream sequence that opens the story, likes to imagine herself as a brave knight, protecting all creatures from harm. She also likes to be in charge and takes her responsibility seriously. So when her parents leave her in charge of her little sister Mina, she’s much too busy being responsible and in charge to play tea party with Mina and her stuffed unicorn, Slasher. Pacey is a hero, and heroes don’t play tea party!

But heroes do get worried about threats to call Mom, so Pacey zips up to Mina’s room to calm her down, just in time to see Mina leaving, with Slasher, on the back of a live full-size unicorn! After a disastrous journey where Pacey and Slasher fall from the rainbow to a pool, (“Lousy plushie grip,” grumbles Slasher), Pacey sets out on a real quest to save her sister… if she even needs saving. Pacey now has to survive the trek through Rundalyn, magical land of unicorns, and encounters with people-eating plants and other dangers. Her “I can do it myself” attitude is challenged when she reluctantly admits she does need Slasher and then discovers that all is not as it seems in Rundalyn, where the beautiful unicorns might be more evil than they look and even Slasher hides secrets beneath his plushie fur and purple heart.

This rather disjointed story is matched with two-dimensional, almost Cubist art. Pacey has pointed ponytails and a tall, lean build, while Mina is short and round, her face made even more circular by her bowl-cut hair. Everything is shades of purple, from pale violet to dark, almost black hues. Rundalyn is a nightmare realm, with grotesque purple flora covered with geometric patterns and plain gray stone, relieved only by scribbled purple graffiti. Most of the landscape is stretches of bare, empty space in shades of violet. The characters show little expression, even Pacey’s face changing only to exaggerated expressions of anger, pique, or exasperation.

The closest parallel I can think of to this story is the Chronicles of Narnia, where an imaginative younger sibling is followed by a more responsible, older sibling into a fantasy land with hidden dangers. However, there’s no strong plot holding the disjointed episodes together here, and Pacey alternately acts like a spoiled brat, refusing help from anyone, then switches to a bossy older sister, demanding to be in charge and proclaiming herself to be “awesome” to hide her own insecurities. This won’t appeal to most fans of fantasy graphic novels, who like carefully plotted stories and beautiful art, but neither will it attract readers who lean more towards the humorous, as its weird dreamscape is mostly just one strange event or object after another. However, if you have readers who are obsessive fans and willing to read anything that includes comics and/or unicorns, this may hold their attention while they wait for more polished fare.

Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker, book 1
By J. C. Phillipps
ISBN: 9781984850546
Random House Graphics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10
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Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
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  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library


    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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