Sarah Clements: Rosie's Unicorn
Olympia Publishing, £5.99
Sarah Clement's website
Thanks to Sarah Clements for sending me a copy of this book.
Sarah Clements runs the Cam Valley pony rescue centre near Paulton, which specialises in rescuing and rehabilitating British native ponies. You can read plenty more about the centre's work on their website, which includes lots of detail on the ponies and their histories. If you'd like to support the rescue, there is a facility to donate via the website.
If you want to support the rescue, buying this book isn't the best way to do it. I am possibly one of the worst people to have been asked to review this book as I have a bit of a thing about punctuation. I want my children to learn to write properly. If children read something that's been professionally published, they assume it's right. In this book, unfortunately, it is not. The author has not been well served by Olympia Publishing's copy editors, who did a very poor job indeed. The errors of punctuation are legion. Here's a sample:
"The corner board had been loose for as long as she could remember, if you pulled it up there was a little secret hidden compartment. This is where I can hide the box, thought Rosie to herself, placing it carefully down and then lowering the plank back into place."
Comma splicing is what's going on here. Sentences which can stand on their own are joined by a comma. Yes, it's a common mistake (shatteringly and alarmingly common) but it's wrong, wrong, wrong. It makes the text read jerkily, rather than flow, which last I suspect was the author's intention, and it happens all the way through the book. (Another minor point: for a reason I can't fathom, thought processes are never, as you'll have spotted in the example above, in quotation marks.)
I don't normally sound off about the importance of correct punctuation and grammar. Some fine writers have needed the services of a team of copy editors before their writing is fit to be published. Not everyone is as fortunate as me, who had a solid grounding in punctuation and grammar at her very old fashioned State Junior School in the 1970s. Children nowadays are fighting a loosing battle with teachers who do not know that what they themselves write is wrong.
Maybe someone who wasn't brought up having the rights and wrongs of punctuation bashed into them can read this book and enjoy it, but it was completely beyond me. I did make a huge effort to look past the multitude of errors and the awkward writing to try and get something out of the story, but I failed there too.
The book opens with the god Unus creating the world: everything is beautiful and new, and Unus creates a beautiful new being as a last gift:
"This is the beast of perfection, the essence of my soul, my endless love for you all...."
You know what's coming, don't you? Yes, it's a unicorn. And like just about every other fictional unicorn shimmering through 21st century children's books, it is perfect, bright and beautiful. It is not that I mind unicorns: to prove this, I am going to review Alan Garner's Elidor just to show I have no anti-unicorn prejudice. It's just that all that perfection is a little wearing to read.
Everything very soon goes wrong in Unus' new world, because of Man and his Greed. However, the unicorn can return to earth again through a child without greed and selfishness, and that's where Rosie comes in. The heroine, Rosie-May is a perfect little girl. She almost never does anything wrong, and even when she lies for the sake of the unicron she feels terribly, terribly bad about it. I realise that this might have a certain charm if you like your child characters full of sweetness and light: Rosie certainly is, but I just can't swallow all that Victorian child-as-innocent stuff, having seen Original Sin alive and well in my own two.
Rosie is pony mad but doesn't have one of her own, so she helps Mr and Mrs Trugg with their horses. Rosie's best friend Milly (Mils) is being bullied by fellow pupils Emma and Flick. Mr and Mrs Trugg's farm is threatened by Digby Fox, who wants the farmland for housing. Through the influence of Rosie, and the unicorn Image, everything works out, as you would imagine it would.
The book is not well written; the author has little ear for dialogue or characterisation and the plot is predictable. I do, however, like the cover very much, which is probably cold comfort.