#FolkloreThursday talks to Beatrice Blue, author and illustrator of Once Upon a Unicorn Horn, a magical book for children from First Editions, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
#FolkloreThursday: Great to chat with you today, Beatrice! What inspired you to write the book? Have you always had a love of unicorns?
Beatrice: I’ve always been fascinated by unicorns, dragons and all sorts of fantastical creatures, and the different stories about them. We wonder where magical creatures might be, what their special powers could be, and what would happen if we found one some day.
One summer’s day, my husband and I were camping with our dog near the Pyrenees and we found this amazing forest full of magical light and little bugs that shone all around the place. The leaves were light transparent green and there was a subtle river sound accompanied by the music of singing birds. It was the most beautiful secret place.
I asked myself then what would have happened if a kid encountered this magical forest on their own? And then, what if this forest was just near their home? I was sure there were so many amazing creatures hiding in that Pyrenees forest which only a kid would be able to discover — because as everybody knows, fantastical creatures have a big tendency to show themselves in front of kids more than adults most of the time.
So I started thinking… what if this forest was full of unicorns? But what if I couldn´t recognize them as unicorns because they were not yet so? How did unicorns become unicorns? Was it for their special powers? And if so, how did they get those powers?
I needed to find the answer. And this answer was probably hiding inside the ice cream I was then holding in my hand.
#FolkloreThursday: What do you think makes Once Upon a Unicorn Horn different to other books about the creatures? Is the approach you took different to other tales?
Beatrice: When I started writing Once Upon a Unicorn Horn one thing was very clear to me. I wanted it to be a book where the kid´s point of view is the most important thing. It had to be fun and appeal to boys and girls. It had to have feelings and the element of discovery and self-acknowledgement and confidence.
Ever since I was young, like June, most of the unicorn stories that I read seemed to appeal to girls, to the exclusion of boys, with ponies (often pink) and rainbows, instead of focusing on the magical creature itself. Magic is magic, without prejudices or gender preference! So when it was time to develop June, she came naturally into life as well as the story. She is not dressed in pink frills. She is brave and kind.
#FolkloreThursday: Why are unicorns so popular today, and do you still think still relevant to children’s lives now?
Beatrice: Unicorns are extremely marvelous creatures. They are majestic, gorgeous and full of wonder. Who can resist them? With this in mind, I wanted my story to be an inspirational starting point for kids to discover how to find their own magic and how to discover every supernatural creature they want to find. I wanted to make it clear that they don´t need to be born with any special power to do so.
I believe magical creatures, stories and folklore come from our past, our speculations for the future and our hopes for the present. It would definitely be great to get a letter from Hogwarts (I’m still patiently waiting) but I think magic comes from our beliefs, hopes and eagerness for it. It feeds on us and we way we feed on it. Magic is based in our choices and values and in our imagination.
We humans have the ability and weakness of imagination, and that makes us wonderful. My intention with this book is to cherish imagination, hope, self-belief and empathy. I think those are key ingredients when it comes to creating magic and magical creatures.
#FolkloreThursday: Do you have any plans for more books about folkloric creatures?
Beatrice: Once Upon a Unicorn Horn is the first title in a series about how magical creatures got their special features. The second one is currently a work in progress. I can say dragons are involved!
My aim with the series is to give a tiny twist to fantasy and make each book a little treasure that kids will want to carry around just because it makes them feel that magic is there, and they own it. I want them to feel that they can make a difference no matter how little they are or where they were born. They don´t need to be born Harry Potter or Matilda, as I thought I had to. What is important is to make choices and to know what you value is. Kids can make us re-discover an entire universe, and this works both ways. Every kid is full of treasures and choices that can make us see the unseen. Kids are the ones that can help us find unicorns, dragons and everything we´ve always craved for. And we can help them find them. And we can grow up together.
#FolkloreThursday: Thanks so much for chatting to us today, Beatrice!
Win a copy of Once Upon a Unicorn Horn by Beatrice Blue
The fabulous folks over at Frances Lincloln Children’s Books have kindly offered a copy of Beatrice Blue’s lovely new book,
Once Upon a Unicorn Horn, for a lucky #FolkloreThursday reader this May.
‘Do you know how unicorns got their horns? It all began once upon a magic forest, when a little girl called June discovered tiny horses learning how to fly in her garden. But one of the poor horses couldn’t fly at all! So, with the help of her parents, June thought of a very sweet and very delicious way to make her new friend happy. I wonder what it could have been…
This first title in a new picture-book series explaining how magical creatures got their distinguishing features is packed full of humour and heart (with a tiny touch of ice cream).’
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Buy the book here.