Posted in Book Review

The Creature of the Pines – WARNING the Unicorns are a Lie!

Sorry about my absentee status this week. Between sick kids, a car accident, and listing our house for sale, blogging was put on hold. We are still going strong with our reading challenge despite the chaos. We have read 824 books as of today; however, our deadline is quickly sneaking up on an us.

Anyways, time to begin tonight’s book review. If you remember, my kiddos and I began reading The Creature of the Pines about a week ago. We finally finished it and the results are in.

The Plot

*WARNING: SPOILERS INCLUDED!!!*

The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz is the first book in the series The Unicorn Rescue Society. It follows two children, Uchenna Devereaux and Elliot Eisner, on a class field trip. The book begins with Elliot experiencing his first day at his new school. He has the typical new kid blues. Once on the bus, Elliot meets Uchenna, who quickly befriends him.

It quickly becomes apparent that Elliot and Uchenna are about as different as can be. Elliot is cautious and follows the rules. Uchenna is bold and downright reckless. These differing personalities become more evident as their field trip progresses.

Uchenna and Elliot are on their way to the the Pine Barrens Forest. While Uchenna is oozing with enthusiasm for the adventure, Elliot is dismayed to be journeying to the dangerous woods. He is also unhappy because the scary and eccentric Professor Fauna is leading the trip. Uchenna warns Elliot that Professor Fauna is even rumored to have a torture chamber in the school basement!

Uchenna’s fearless personality quickly gets Elliot into trouble once they are in the woods. Uchenna decided to sneak away from the group and to do her own exploring. Elliot eventually goes against his better judgment and follows Uchenna into the woods to make sure she is safe.

Shockingly, they encounter a small blue dragon – the Jersey Devil. After rescuing him from being tangled up, the mischievous dragon becomes a stowaway on the school bus.

Elliot and Uchenna once again have the opportunity to save the dragon. This time, the children team up with Professor Fauna to defeat the dubious Schmoke Brothers.

After their heroic acts, Professor Fauna invites the Elliot and Uchenna to join a secret society – The Unicorn Rescue Society.

The Positives

This 192 page fantasy book was well-written. Adam Gidwitz did a lovely job developing each of his characters. The main characters each had their own highly unique personality types. The attention to character development makes it easy for younger children to keep track of the different characters.

The characters are extremely relatable. Because of the diverse personalities of the characters included in this book, it is easy for a child to find someone to relate to. Plus several relatable themes are included. For example, trying to navigate the fears and awkwardness of being the new kid at school.

The book included a male and female lead character. I view this as a bonus. My girls are at the age where they strongly prefer characters who are girls “like them.” This book worked great because Uchenna was a lead character just like Elliot. If Uchenna did not exist in this book, I doubt the girls would have finished listening to it.

The illustrations were well-done. While the illustrations were all black and white, they were cute. My kids got excited whenever they saw a page with pictures in this book. The illustrations enhanced the reading experience.

Lastly, the overall story was enjoyable. It included a cute dragon, several humorous mishaps, and a caste of quirky characters. Children between ages 6 and 11 are likely to enjoy this story if they enjoy fantasy books.

The Critiques

My biggest disappointment with this book as silly as it may sound was THERE WERE NO UNICORNS. When I picked this book out for the girls, it was specifically for the unicorns. Who would have guessed that a book called The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines does not contain one single unicorn. My girls were super disappointed. They just kept nagging me with “when are the unicorns going to show up?”

The first chapter completely failed to grab my kids’ attention. To be perfectly honest, I had to ask the kids to humor me and to give the book at least thirty pages to improve. I promised them if the book did not get better by page thirty, we would read something else. The book did improve enough for us to finish it; however, it got off to a rough start. Had I not volunteered to read the whole book aloud it would not have been finished. Also, my kids kept taking breaks to have me read books that they deemed more interesting. Specifically, we read two Magic Treehouse books, three Rainbow Fairy books, and one Junie B. Jones book, before we finished this book.

I also was not a huge fan of some of the “humorous” elements included in the book. I acknowledge that this is solely a matter of personal preference, but we do not gravitate towards books with farting jokes. This book had several farting jokes and scenes throughout. I try to encourage my kids to be polite and classy so farting was not humorous to them. Obviously this may be a non-issue for other families.

Also, some parents as a matter of preference may take issue with the dragon being called the Jersey Devil. It was not a dealbreaker for us, but I know for some families it might be.

Conclusion

This book would be an excellent choice for a child who likes dragons. If your child likes unicorns, I would skip this book. In fact, my six year old recommends Pop-up Peekaboo! Unicorn instead for any young unicorn-loving readers out there.

Despite our rocky start with The Creature of the Pines, we did order book number two in the series. I will keep you posted on whether the second book goes over better.

For now, have a great day everyone!