A story about a beauty contest, inclusivity and the insignificance of fame
They have previously worked together on a series of comic-book poems, a picture book about dinosaurs and the accessible ‘Sofie’ series. Now Edward van de Vendel and Floor de Goede have added to that list a book in the ‘Tijgerlezen’ series for beginning readers: Miss Unicorn.
This is a wonderfully over-the-top, glossy story about a beauty contest, in which a group of appealing rejects join forces. Ayla, Juultje, Tinker & Swing and Miep are disqualified by the jury because they are a zebra (stripy), a pony (too small), stallions (boy horses) and a seahorse (way too small). The five of them think that’s unfair. So they decide to do something about it. With the support of Ayla’s grandma and the pretty little horse Sweetie Darling, who has qualified for the contest, they start a counteroffensive.
Author Edward van de Vendel, the man behind the ‘Tijgerlezen’ series, has really gone to town here with the idiotic qualifying rounds, narcissistic presenters and nervous contestants. He has written a humorous and at times touching book about being different, daring to be true to yourself, and real friendship. Because ultimately that is what unites this mixed bag of participants: the unconditional support they find with one another, in spite of their differences.
De Goede, originally a comic-book artist, creates the perfect complement for the story with his cartoonish drawings: with delicious exaggeration, an exuberant palette and over-the-top facial expressions, he gives the book the appeal and dynamism of an animated film. Speech bubbles, handwritten letters, e-mails and a newspaper article – in terms of typography, this book is as varied as the contestants in the beauty pageant, but that certainly does not get in the way of readability.
Children’s books reviewer Jaap Friso has written about the books in the ‘Tijgerlezen’ series that they are ‘well-written books for beginning readers, with differences in the degree of difficulty, but united by their focus on not only originality and style but also excitement and humour’. With its cheerful riotousness, Miss Unicorn is a successful story about inclusivity and the insignificance of fame.