Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cynthia and the Unicorn

Cynthia and the Unicorn
Jean Todd Freeman, pictures by Leonard Weisgard
WW Norton, 1967

Over Spring Break, we went to the coast with a friend and her son and daughter. After a long day at the beach, the two wee friends brought out their prospective videos to watch. An upset began when the girl wanted to watch a Barbie movie and my son and his friend freaked out about watching a chick flick. The fight was only settled after I pointed out that the movie was Swan Lake, and my son quickly switched sides. He grabbed the box from the sister and looked at the cover and upon seeing a unicorn exclaimed, "Ooohhhh, I just love enchanted animals!" That he does, indeed... and though this book is about a little girl and her want of a one-horned steed, all it took was a Gryphon on page six to win him over.

The day before Christmas, Cynthia said,
"This year, Mother, I don't want a sled,
I don't want candy or skates or a doll.
I'd like a little Unicorn, and that is all.
A unicorn, you know, is a little white horse
With the tail of a lion, and a horn, of course."

"What?" laughed Mother. "Don't be absurd:
'Unicorn' is a storybook word.
Have you ever seen, since the day you were born
Anything at all like a Unicorn?""There's a Gryphon in the attic,
A Troll beneath the stairs,
And a Mermaid in my bathtub who eats chocolate eclairs.
I've seen them," said Cynthia, "and I know they're true,
So why can't I dream of a Unicorn too?"

Now, I know this is kinda a holiday book and the rhyme is a bit clunky and the mother slightly condescending... but hey, unicorns are good anytime of the year, in any rhythm and any mood. So, when her patronizing parents won't help her obtain a Unicorn, she seeks the assistance of her enchanted friends. The Gryphon tells her a white nightgown in the woods will trap one. The Troll says she needs a bowl of cream. And the mermaid suggests she snatch one in a dream.As always, Weisgard's drawings shine, and I especially love the blue tones. Perfect for this sort of wistful story. In the end, her wish does come true, even if her silly mom and dad don't believe. And isn't that the point to begin with?

Also by:
The Quiet Noisy Book
Little Chicken
The Little Island
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
The Big Book of Nursery Tales
Treasures to See
Sir Kevin of Devon
The Secret River
Pilgrim Thanksgiving
The Mouse and the Lion


Estelle Hayes said...

Hi there, I've loved your site for a while now and just wanted to let you know that I posted about you today with a link to your blog. My mom found some of my old treasured books and I was so excited and immediately thought of your site. So I had to share.

Burgin Streetman said...

Thanks for the shout out! Love that Alice book... we have one but it is not in that good shape.

Antmusic said...

I haven't seen this one, and I am a Leonard Weisgard fan. I would say that this book was a response to Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn... but that came out the next year (1968).

Leonard Weisgard is referencing a famous unicorn painting though in that last picture...

Sarah @ said...

This is such a beautiful book! I am totally hooked on your blog anyway, but this would have done it for me if I weren't already. I love books that feature unicorns. Always have.

Chandra said...

O - MY - GAH! I MUST have this book! I have a unicorn loving little girl and I've found that there is a real dearth of NON-corny books on the subject! I so hope I can find a copy!

Janna said...

Oh I love these illustrations!

Miss Plumcake said...

Hallelujah! I had that book as a little girl in the early 80's and have spent the past twenty years trying to remember the title. All I remembered was a mermaid who lived in a bathtub and ate chocolate eclairs. I even submitted it to a bunch of "what was that book?" sites and nada. Now it makes perfect sense. My mother collected unicorns, so Cynthia and the Unicorn would've been a natural purchase. Now I just wish I could get a copy for less than $75.

SJ said...

And I remembered the Gryphon in the attic all of my life, so now I know which book that I need a copy of four my "favorite books" collection.

SJ said...

And I remembered the Gryphon in the attic all of my life, so now I know which book that I need a copy of four my "favorite books" collection.

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