We all know you’d be hard-pressed to find a unicorn in real life – but did you know that it might be equally tricky to spot a polar bear, rhino or chameleon before too long?
This is the message behind an educational but engaging new book from Owlet Press, a publishing house which makes books design to help parents and teachers equip children for the real world.
We’re Off To Find A Unicorn is the first title in a three-part series about endangered wildlife, created by author Eloise White and debut picture book illustrator Cory Reid. It’s loosely based on the classic We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and features a mixed race family on a wildlife safari around the world.
The book ticks a lot of boxes in terms of positive messages and diversity, from its planet-friendly tone to the multi-generational rainbow family, including a wheelchair-using child. But it never feels preachy or contrived, just a reflection of society as it is, rather than how it is often presented.
The artwork is playful and the unicorn hunt keeps younger readers engaged, as they puzzle over what animal they might have spotted in the snow, leaves and long grass.
To celebrate the book’s publication, as part of the We’re Off To Find A Unicorn blog tour, we asked Cory Reid five quick-fire questions. Here are his answers…
This is your debut picture book. How did the process of illustrating it and collaborating with the author, Eloise White, compare to your usual work?
I felt like collaborating with the author was incredibly easy and A LOT was learned throughout the process by somebody who is clearly very knowledgeable in the industry. Work flow wise things were very similar to how I’m used to working, although the volume of work was much higher.
The story features the fictional unicorn alongside some endangered species like the polar bear. Did you have to study the animals closely for the artwork?
There were some animals which I hadn’t heard of before such as the Pangolin and Bush Baby, so these required much more research, not only so I could get their look right, but also their surroundings.
The family in the story are mixed race. As a BAME illustrator, does it frustrate you at the lack of representation in picture books?
The lack of representation of people on an equal level in general, is something that frustrates me in all walks of life. Specifically regarding picture books though, things have definitely changed from when I was a young kid reading books, although more can always be done. I feel lucky to be able to contribute to this.
What children’s book illustrators have inspired you over the years and why?
All kinds of books and art in general have always inspired and excited me. One of the biggest influences on my work was after going to an exhibition showcasing lots of artworks from the Harlem Renaissance, particularly the bold colourful and just outright fun pieces. Christopher Corr is also another big influence.
Finally, what is your favourite children’s book and why?
This is like asking me my favourite movie. Too hard to answer as I love so much and my current mood also dictates what I really enjoy.
We’re Off To Find A Unicorn by Eloise White and Cory Reid. £7.99 (paperback), Owlet Press. Available from Amazon
You may also like…