Dear Unicorn by Josh Funk. Illus. by Charles Santoso
It is the beginning of the school year and Connie's art class is partnering up with pen pals. Both Connie and Nic's teachers encourage them to to ask their pen pals questions, to talk about their own lives, to be creative, share their likes and dislikes and to enjoy themselves. Even though Connie is a little reluctant to start with, soon both love exchanging letters despite the two of them seeming so very different. Connie takes her art seriously and thinks things like kittens are nothing more than a distraction, while Nic has a more whimsical approach to painting and knows the value of a good cupcake. Both are eagerly awaiting the end of year pen pal art festival where their two classes will finally meet, but what is the surprise that is in store for both of them?
Building on the original concept of Dear Dragon, the story has some clever wordplay (like Connie's surname summing up her pessimistic outlook) that leads to some misunderstandings that carry both the letter-writing and the story along, and young readers will immerse themselves in the fantasy particularly as, through the illustrations, they can see what Connie and Nic don't. What would it like to have a friend such as Nic? Can we be friends with those who seem to be so different from us (even if that is not as extreme as this relationship?)
As well as being useful for exploring the essential give-and-take nature of relationships, and how we can learn from those around us to seek common bonds despite being unique individuals, the book also opens up the almost-extinct concept of penpals, letter-writing and the anticipation of a letter in the mailbox. Perhaps it will be the spark for building some new connections between classes in this new school year.
Themes: Letter writing, Unicorns, Friendship, Individuality.