I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to think of combining unicorns and Christmas together into a picture book, but I’m not surprised that the talented writer that did so is Diana Murray!
Diana Murray has visited my blog numerous times over the years. She is the author of over twenty children’s books, including Jr. Library Guild selections like CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown 2016) and GOODNIGHT, VEGGIES (HMH/Clarion, 2020), as well as the bestselling UNICORN DAY series (Sourcebooks), and award-winning early readers like PIZZA PIG (Step-into-Reading/Random House, 2018). Her award-winning poems have also appeared in magazines such as Highlights, High Five and Spider, as well as many poetry anthologies. She grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her family. You can learn more about her at her website.
UNICORN CHRISTMAS is a delightful unicorn take on one of my favorite holidays. There are cards to mail, trees to decorate, and so many more favorite traditions that I may never look at in quite the same way again. Like making cookies that come to life? That’s never happened to me! (Thank goodness.) Diana even manages to get Santa into the plot with a twist I didn’t see coming. Plus, the colorful and enthusiastic illustrations by Luke Flowers will keep young readers perusing this book way past Christmas day. This is a very fun picture book that I guarantee you won’t want to miss if you were a fan of the first two books in the series!
Welcome back Diana!
Me: I’m absolutely thrilled to see a third Unicorn story. This is first book in the series that embraces a holiday and takes a unique spin on it. That’s a tall order! What gave you the idea?
Diana: That was actually the publisher’s idea. Once they mentioned it, I just ran with it.
Me: Of all the holidays out there, what made Christmas feel perfect to combine with unicorns?
Diana: I think Christmas would definitely be the unicorns’ favorite classic holiday. Unicorns (my version of them) love celebrating. They love decorating, being festive, cheerful and sparkly. They also represent goodness, kindness and helpfulness. And Christmas, the way I interpret it, is about all of those things! Also, both unicorns and Christmas (the Santa-fied version) involve exciting, fun magic.
Me: The illustrations by Luke Flowers are once again fantastic. As always he really brings these stories to life. I’m so glad he’s illustrated all the books in the series so far. Did you have any favorite illustrations?
Diana: Yes! It’s such a gift when I see his illustrations. He brings so much more to the story.
It’s tough to choose a favorite. In UNICORN CHRISTMAS, I love the page with the gingercorns.
He really captured the magic! And in UNICORN NIGHT, if you look closely, there is a hidden message of “LOVE” on the yawning page, which is brilliant.
And the page where the animals are dreaming always draws a lot of interest when I read the book to a group of kids.
In UNICORN DAY, I love when the others join the unicorn parade and there are so many unexpected creatures, like a yeti and an octopus. And of course, I love the glitter fight!
Me: I was surprised to see such iconic characters as Santa and his reindeer with unicorn horns by the end of the story. Brilliant! Was that your idea or Luke’s?
Diana: That was all Luke! I try not to use too many illustration notes because I don’t want to interfere with his creative process. I only include them when clarification might be needed. He brings his own expert vision to the project.
Me: He is SO talented! This is the second unicorn book with a song as part of the story. Was it a challenge to come up with a unique holiday song that is also perfect for unicorns? Did it tax your rhyming and/or writing skills?
Diana: I love writing songs. The first picture book manuscript I ever sold (Ned the Knitting Pirate) had songs in it. The first time I read it at an event, I thought, “Oh no! I have to sing in public! What have I done?!” I promised myself I’d never write another picture book with a song in it again. Then I proceeded to write at least seven more! All three of the unicorn books include a song, and so do the next three books in the series. I also have another book with a different publisher coming out in 2024 that has a song in it. So it’s sort of become my signature thing. I’ve gotten used to singing in public now. I just keep it very simple and chant-like without trying to change keys.
Me: LOL! I love that. This book captures many of the traditions that go with Christmas and makes them uniquely Unicorn-y. Do you celebrate Christmas? If yes, what is your favorite Christmas tradition?
Diana: I do! I was raised atheist and consider myself agnostic. And my father’s side of the family is all Jewish. But I’ve always had a fascination with Christmas and loved watching Christmas specials on TV. They were quite a treat since we only had cartoons on Saturday mornings and couldn’t record anything. But once a year, we’d get these great feature-length cartoons. My favorite Christmas concept was the general idea of kindness and doing good. To me, Christmas had a warm, fuzzy feeling about it that I really enjoyed. As someone who was bullied a lot for being “weird,” I especially loved “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” a 1964 classic.
These days, my 13-year-old daughter is obsessed with Christmas and I love getting into the spirit with her. We start decorating early!
Me: the 1964 Rudolph is one of my favorites! Can you give us a hint about the plot of the fourth book in this series that is due out next spring?
Diana: In the next book, we’re branching out into other topics. The fourth book, coming in 2023, will be MERMAID DAY. It’s already available for pre-order. I think you can get a hint of the plot just by looking at the cover. See how one of the tails is a little bit different? The story follows the same idea as the other books, where the mermaids have a mer-velous celebration, but something unexpected happens towards the end. And there is also the same element of kindness and inclusivity.
Oh my goodness! I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for stopping by my blog again today Diana.
Dear readers, if you haven’t yet had a chance to track down this book, try to do so. This book is another fun frolic with unicorns that is sure to delight all those young unicorn fans out there. Plus an adventure with Santa thrown in? Trust me when I say you won’t want to miss it!