Twelve Dancing Unicorns, by Alissa Heyman, illustrated by Justin Gerard; Sterling Children’s Books, $14.95, 32 pages, ages 5-8. (September 2014)

Since its initial publication in 1812, The Grimm brothers’ classic fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, has inspired movies, musicals, as well as adaptations and numerous retellings. In Alissa Heyman’s debut picture book the dozen princesses are now glittering unicorns who manage to break free of their golden chains every night.  The king offers a reward to the person capable of solving his pets’ mysterious nocturnal ramblings, and a plucky young villager takes up the challenge.  Young readers familiar with the original will quickly pick up on the similarities, while children new to the tale will enjoy it just the same. Veteran illustrator (DreamWorks, Disney) Justin Gerard’s paintings set an enchanted mood – fairies and flowers appear illuminated from within, while the unicorns gallop right out of this glowing fantasy world.  Tones of purple, blue and radiant gold are a perfect accompaniment to this magical tale. 

Follow the Twelve Dancing Unicorns blog tour tomorrow on My Friend Amy:


Image reproduced with permission from Sterling Publishers.  ©2014 Linda Beck.

“Goodnight Songs,” by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by various illustrators, Sterling Children’s books, $17.95, 28 pages, ages 2-5.

For over sixty years, children have drifted to dreamland after reading the quintessential bedtime story Goodnight Moon. Now comes a previously unpublished collection of Margaret Wise Brown’s charming lullabies for a new generation of readers.

Amy Gary, the editor of Brown’s Estate, introduces the collection by describing her discovery of a treasure trove of manuscripts. Tucked away for decades in a trunk in an attic barn on the author’s family farm in Vermont, all but three have never been printed until now.

Also among the hidden treasures were musical scores Brown was composing for a children’s record company. An accompanying disk includes songs based on the poems. Emily Gary and Tom Proutt set the poems to music, and managed to capture the effortless imagery of Brown’s work. 

A different contributor illustrated each poem and the list reads like a who’s-who of award winning artists. Caldecott Honor medalist Melissa Sweet, Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner Sean Qualls, and New York Times Best Illustrated Book winner Carin Berger were among the dozen asked to collaborate on the project.  Brown’s innate understanding of what entertains and comforts children will delight everyone who comes across this gem, now and for years to come.