7 magical children's books about unicorns

Published on: 14 August 2022 Author: Cerrie Burnell

Cerrie Burnell, author of The Unicorn Seekers, shares her own love of unicorns, and suggests seven wonderful books about these magical creatures.

A photo of Cerrie Burnell and the front cover of Unicorn Seekers: Map of Lost Unicorns

I have always had a gentle belief in unicorns.

It's not that I'm expecting to see one galloping through the midnight streets of south London. It's more that my childhood felt touched by their magic, for they've appeared in so many stories, in a myriad of different cultures throughout all of time. We could all describe one, without ever supposedly having encountered one.

When I was nine, my family and I went out for a walk through the woods. It wasn't quite a forest, more just a stretch of woodland between our back garden and a busy road. So the air was full of birdsong, the rustle of leaves and, distantly, the sound of traffic.

I wandered ahead of everyone else and quite suddenly a noise stopped me. It was something very close and very fast. I stood completely still as a creature as white as starlight bolted past me, almost close enough to touch. It was too little to be a horse, but seemed bigger than a deer, and it felt like it stepped out of thin air.

For a moment I was too stunned to breathe and then I ran after it, seeing little flashes of white ahead of me, trying to keep it in sight as it wove through the woods. Then we came to a patch of woodland where the trees were clear and it was full of spring sunshine.

In my memory the creature – the little horse or white stag – vanished into the sunlight. And I was certain that as it moved I caught a glimpse of a dagger-sharp horn.

Time moved on and I forgot about the little unicorn. I never saw another one, nor any horses or wild deer in that part of the woods. Then years and years later, when my daughter was around the same age, we were out walking through the little stretch of woodland, picking bluebells, when a sound stopped us. 

Something streamed past, seeming to rush right out of thin air. It was too little to be a horse, but was definitely not a deer. My daughter looked at me wide-eyed, both of us stunned, and whispered, 'Was that a unicorn?'

'Yes,' I answered, my heart still beating to the rhythm of its hooves. 'It was.'

And so if, like me, you have a gentle belief in unicorns, here are seven beautiful books that celebrate them:

An illustration of a unicorn from the front cover of The Magical Unicorn Society: Official Handbook

1. The Magical Unicorn Society: Official Handbook
by Selwyn E Phipps and Jonny Leighton, illustrated by Harry and Zanna Goldhawk and Helen Dardik

An incredibly beautiful, imaginative and delightful handbook, with the power to warm hearts of all ages. I absolutely adore it and keep a copy beside my bed. Perfect reading before bedtime on warm sunny nights or cosy winter eves. A book to treasure for ever.

Read our review

2. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief
by A.F. Steadman

This extraordinary children's novel is the first in a fantasy series from debut author Annabel Steadman and has already gone global. In Skandar's world, not only are unicorns very real, but they're exceptionally deadly and can only be tamed by the rider that hatches them. This is a story that will enchant, excite, astonish and place unicorns firmly in the imaginations of a whole new generation of readers.

Read our review

3. The Unicorn Quest
by Kamilla Benko

The front cover of The Unicorn Quest: Secret in the Stone

Pic: Matt Saunders

This a glorious and sublimely written novel that's full of magic, the power of sisterhood and finding courage. Set between our world and the enchanted land of Arden, it follows Sophie and Claire, two sisters who move to strange old Windemere Manor and climb a ladder in a fireplace. There, they discover a magical world in utter turmoil. The four guilds of magic have lost trust in each other, and worst of all, their unicorns are missing.

4. The Last Unicorn
by Pater S. Beagle

This is a very old, mythical and multi-layered tale. It's an epic fantasy book, more aimed at older and adult readers. But it has a timeless and heart-stirring quality, a tale of love and loss and wonderment which still resonates with readers today.

5. The Unicorn Seekers: Map of Lost Unicorns
by Cerrie Burnell

The mysterious white creature I saw in the woods became the starting point for writing about unicorns living in a South London park, only appearing to a certain few - mostly children aged nine. This became the story of Elodie Lightfoot, a roller-skating girl with a gang of friends who discover a unicorn in danger and journey across Europe to save it, learning about unicorn history and folklore as they go.

Read our review

6. Unicorn Academy
by Julie Sykes, illustrated by Lucy Truman

The front cover of Unicorn Academy: Ava and Star

A bright-hearted, beautifully diverse, enchanting series, exploring many themes familiar to primary-age children, through the spellbinding guise of a unicorn academy. Woven through with different backgrounds and cultures, it's sprinkled with magic, friendship and all the difficulties and joys of working with unicorns and wanting to belong. Perfect for young readers.

Read our review

7. Grumpycorn
by Sarah Macintyre

I absolutely adore this joyfully colourful and characterful story of a very grumpy unicorn trying to pen a creative masterpiece. It's a brilliant, warm-hearted and funny tale about the power and importance of friendship, collaboration and realising your artistic dreams. It's so gloriously, humorously illustrated. Every page is a gem.

Read our review

Our review of Cerrie's book

Unicorn Seekers: The Map of Lost Unicorns

Author: Cerrie Burnell Illustrator: Lucy Fleming

Elodie Lightfoot discovers she’s a Unicorn Seeker! Not only can she see the secretive, nocturnal creatures, but she has a special bond with one. But with hunters after her unicorn, can Elodie protect her?

Read more about Unicorn Seekers: The Map of Lost Unicorns

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More unicorn books to try

We've put together a list of more magical (and funny) books about unicorns for children.

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