Waiting for Unicorns

256p. Philomel. Jan. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525426318; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781101619988. LC 2014007441.
Gr 4–7—It's been a terrible year for almost-13-year-old Talia. It's only been a few months since her beloved mother died from cancer, and now Dad, a whale researcher, has dragged them from their home in Woods Hole, Massachussetts, to Churchill, Manitoba (Canada) so that he can study beluga whales out on the ice. Talia used to remain at home with her mother during Dad's annual trips, but now she will live with Sura, a local Inuit woman, whom she's never met before. Clinging desperately to her special "jar of secret wishes," Talia feels like she herself is frozen and she is terrified of losing her father—a very real possibility given his dangerous profession. During the long months when Dad is away, Talia begins to explore the area (carefully, given the roaming polar bears), meets a new friend, and discovers a way to relate to Sura through her traditional storytelling, which was her deceased mother's work focus as well. Although the novel can be a bit overly earnest in parts, the deliberate wording also draws in readers and elicits an emotional response. This poignant story demonstrates that opening up to new experiences, places, and people can enrich life even in the aftermath of tragedy.—Susan Riley, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY
After her mother dies of cancer, twelve-year-old Talia accompanies her whale-researcher father to Canada. As she grapples with the "Mom-sized space" separating her and her father, Talia finds comfort in her jar of wishes, a narwhal ("sea unicorn") folktale, and new friendships. It's a touching novel, with a strong sense of place and well-developed themes of loss and grief, hope and healing.

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