This week, we have been tackling one of our meatiest books to date – I Believe in Unicorns by the storytelling titan that is Michael Morpurgo, with illustrations by Gary Blythe.
Wow! It really is quite remarkable how much is packed in to less than 100 pages here! There is exploration of religion, war and the power of great storytelling, all told through the eyes of a young boy named Tomas. Tomas doesn’t like school, preferring hands on activities in the great outdoors. Things begin to change when he is dragged unwillingly into town by his mother and left and the library whilst she does some shopping.
It is here, just as Tomas is working out a means of escape, that he is pulled into the world of stories being weaved by The Unicorn Lady. With a wooden unicorn allegedly carved by Noah and a bag full of great stories, she has Tomas and all the other children captivated. But what will become of the unicorn, and all the precious books in the library, when war finds its way to Tomas’ village in the mountains?
This is a stupendously good piece of storytelling from a master writer. Tomas is an excellent narrator, with a magical story weaved through his eyes and his voice. There are moments in which you will become as lost in the story as Tomas does, and other moments of great drama and the harsh realities of war will have you rushing to turn the page. The sketched illustrations, often over a double-page spread, add wonderfully to the drama. T was hooked every night and always eager for me to read more. He told me tonight, “I really liked the good bits but I didn’t like the war.” When I asked for his thoughts on unicorns and their being real he offered a non-committal, “undecided.”