Chad W Beckerman
Amulet Books/ Abrams
$14.99 / 256 page
Lumberjanes Unicorn Power is the latest from the much beloved comics franchise pairing writer Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer, She-Hulk) with artist and Lumberjanes alumni Brooke Allen. Unicorn Power features the familiar Roanoke Cabin scouts (Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley) and a few others from different cabins while venturing out in a chapter book format intended for middle school readers.
Tamaki’s story is tailored to keep young minds engaged with short chapters and a varied pace that switches the focus between action, quiet moments, and character dynamics. She perfectly captures the spirit of the Lumberjanes’ “Friendship to the Max” motto with April as the catalyst for the fantastical adventure of hiking up the tallest ever mountain. All the more intriguing is the fact that it doesn’t appear on any maps at their disposal. Sure, this may sound improbably to you, but to the Lumberjanes there must be an explanation. Besides, they’ve already recently discovered a unicorn which is also a good thing because this unicorn and their unicorn friends play a pivotal role later on just as things are looking pretty dire for the scouts. During this undertaking the scouts encounter billowy beings of a fluffy, wispy nature known as the Cloudies who live on the mountaintop often sipping tea and the Lady Dana Deveroe Anastasia Mistytoe who is less enthusiastic about tea because she’s a perpetual grump who can’t collect any more medals or points which in turn threatens her self image. Ironically, it was her dogged pursuit of medals many years ago thart put her in the situation of being stuck on this mountain that isn’t a mountain.
Several themes run throughout to illustrate the Lumberjane ethos. Teamwork and clear thinking are key to getting out of sticky situations. Also, unicorns are helpful but also tricky. That’s not the only thing to know about unicorns but you’ll have to read the book to learn the rest! Don’t be afraid of trying new things even if it involves new people like Mal was with the Zodiac cabin scouts or meeting someone very different from you like the Cloudies or Lady Dana is who is quite simply and sadly a grump. Finally, records and points aren’t nearly as important as friendship to the max.
Lumberjanes co-creator Brooke Allen’s alwas charming art, rendered here in a palette of greens and blacks, enhances the writing. Spot illustrations adorn each chapter heading while additional half and full page drawings of the Lumberjanes abound throughout. I find the drawing of the Lumberjanes with Jen and Rosie framed by unicorns, seen here, to be quite whimsical and fun. Unfortunately cropping was necessary to remove the gray area along the spine side because the book doesn’t open completely flat.
Chad W Beckerman’s book design is really quite excellent. At 5 1/2 by 8 inches, it’s compact for a younger reader’s hands while feeling like a substantial object thanks to its hard covers. Brooke Allen’s cover illustration draws the eye with both its color and energetic composition while the embossed visual and textual elements encourage fingers to run across the book. The whole package encourages a love of reading and for books as objects. Cream paper is a thoughtful and restful on the eye choice as the backdrop for Allen’s color scheme and black font. Details that round out the book include an overview of Lumberjanes badges mentioned in Tamaki’s script; page numbers, an often ignored element, are enclosed in a simple lozenge shape that combine to make a subtle color statement on the book’s fore edges.
All in all Lumberjanes Unicorn Power is a wonderful story wrapped up in a beautiful package that will entertain readers. Look for it at your local bookstore or purchase from Amazon.