Book Review: The Unicorn in the Barn, by Jacqueline K. Ogburn

Eleven-year-old Eric Harper has heard rumors of an elusive white deer that roams his family’s woods. One evening, he finally sees it for himself, and to his amazement, finds that it is actually a beautiful unicorn that needs help. Eric’s veterinarian neighbor hires him on to assist her in caring for the creature, and Eric begins to discover things about life, loss, and magic that he never wanted to know.

This beautifully told debut novel is for the more introspective reader. The country setting lends itself to a quiet tale, and Eric is a very thoughtful protagonist. Dealing with an aloof father and brother, a sick grandmother, and keeping the secret of the unicorn all weigh heavily on him throughout the story, especially as he learns that the unicorn has powers that could change lives for the better. Eric has to decide whether to share the knowledge of that power, whether it is even his to share, and if the cost of using that power is worth it.

If you like bittersweet stories that explore the connections between living things and the highs and lows of life, then this book is for you. This could potentially work to introduce young readers who love stories with a myriad of fantastic creatures (such as Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series or DiTerlizzi and Black’s Spiderwick Chronicles) to a more somber sort of storytelling. Large text and lovely illustrations interspersed throughout also make this a good choice for reluctant readers or those who are beginning to venture into chapter book territory. If you have a child who loved Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot, this is a good next read as it is very close in tone, length, and format.

Have a few tissues handy for this one!

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