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Monday, February 8, 2021

Review and Interview: Unicorn Island by Donna Galanti

Unicorn Island 

By Donna Galanti 

Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe 

February 9, 2021 

Andrews Mcmeel Publishing 


Beyond the mist lies a magical secret waiting to be discovered . . . 

From Epic! Originals, Unicorn Island is a middle-grade illustrated novel series about a young girl who discovers a mysterious island full of mythical beasts and darker dangers! 

When Sam arrives in Foggy Harbor, population 3,230, all she can see is a small, boring town that’s way too far from home. And knowing that she’s stuck there all summer with her grumpy Uncle Mitch only makes things worse. 

But when Sam discovers a hidden trapdoor leading to a room full of strange artifacts, she realizes Foggy Harbor isn’t as sleepy as it seems. With the help of a new friend, Sam discovers an extraordinary secret beyond the fog: an island of unicorns whose fates are intertwined with hers. 

“An accessible and fast-paced magical adventure.” – Kirkus Reviews 

“An all-too-human, enchanting middle grade fantasy novel.” – Forward Reviews  

“What begins as realistic fiction turns to a fantastical tale of magical rescue. Fans of unicorns and magic in the real world will enjoy this adventure.” – School Library Journal 

Donna’s website: 

When Sam’s musician mother has to go overseas for work, Sam isn’t thrilled that she’s being sent to the tiny town of Foggy Harbor to live with an uncle she barely knows. When Sam arrives she can’t imagine anything exciting ever happening in the boring town. But then Sam and her new friend Tuck discover a trapdoor in Uncle Mitch’s cabin that takes them to a room full of strange artifacts. Soon, Sam and Tuck find themselves on a surprising and magical adventure! 


Donna Galanti’s Unicorn Island is a fast paced, mesmerizing new middle-grade fantasy, full of likable characters, engrossing fantastical elements, and engaging illustrations. 


Readers will quickly be swept away into this charming and clever fantasy adventure. Galanti creates a page-turning, accessible tale filled with just enough exciting mystery, fun magical elements, and cool surprises. Sam and Tuck both make for relatable, likable, and capable young characters that readers will root for, while the mythical creatures introduced with fascinate and charm. 


I really enjoyed this captivating and fun first book and look forward to reading more books in the series! 

Q1. What three words best describe your book, Unicorn Island? 

Adventurous. Mysterious. Magical. 


Q2. Grab a copy of Unicorn Island and answer the following. 

Favorite chapter? 

I love chapter two where the main character, Samantha (Sam), arrives at her uncle’s house by the sea for the summer—and she’s never met him before so has no idea what to expect.  

Favorite page or illustration? 

This is the picture shown right when Sam meets her Uncle Mitch. The scene is so atmospheric and eerie with the mist, live oak trees, and one solitary light on upstairs. It makes us wonder what’s in store for Sam at this place!  



Favorite setting? 

My favorite setting is the town of Foggy Harbor where the story partially takes place. It’s misty and mysterious. A sleepy, small town like the one I grew up—and with a secret to be discovered. 

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: 

“Uncle Mitch’s stone house sat at the end, alone and secluded, hugging the ocean. Its sloped roof pierced the murky sky. One light glowed in a back window. Crickets trilled around the house, creating an eerie buzz as waves lapped the shore. Sam crunched over the walking path made of shells, then thumped up the front porch steps and rang the doorbell, eager to escape the empty night.” 


Q3. What inspired Unicorn Island? How did the story come to be? 

The idea actually came over lunch with my publisher! He threw out there that he’d like me to write a book “about a girl who has to take care of a unicorn.” From that, we spent six months creating the concept. We wanted to write a story with a strong girl character but one that appealed to all young readers. I love stories that are magical but also set in the real world—and that’s what guided me.  


Q4. Tell us a bit about your heroine, Sam. What makes her special, what do you love about her? 

Sam is an independent, adventurous character. I love this about her and that she is willing to face danger to help those she cares about.  


Q5.  If you had a pet unicorn, what would you name her or him? 

Probably Galaxy Traveler. This was the name of a horse my cousin had when I was growing up. I always loved the name—and never forgot it as it fired my imagination. 😊 


Q6. What are your three favorite facts about unicorns? 

  1. Unicorns live in peace in the forest—my favorite place to be! 

  1. Their horns are called ‘alicorns’ and can heal. 

  1. A baby unicorn is called a sparkle. How cute! 


Q7. Unicorn Island features more than just one kind of mythical creature...what other kind of mythical creature or being would you love to explore and write about? 

I am fascinated with Bigfoot! I would love to write about this creature and also do a fun research trip to places where he’s been “sighted” to see if I can go off in the woods and find him myself.  


Q8.  This series is also available to read on Epic!, a site I was introduced to this year while helping my niece do virtual learning...can you tell us what it’s been like working with epic!?  

Epic! is amazing to work with! My assigned editor really helped me polish this story and we were so in sync with our ideas. Plus, the illustrator they chose, Bethany Stancliffe, is super talented and really brought Unicorn Island to life with her illustrations.  


Q9. Fill in the blanks: 

I’m really awesome at coming up with story ideas! 😊 

I’m really embarrassed to admit that I am terrible at math and can’t even do numbers in my head. 

The last great book I read was Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski. 


Q10. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Unicorn Island, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it? 

Ooh, yum! It would be dark pumpkin chocolate with orange cream cheese frosting and purple sprinkles—and I’d call it the Magic Pumpkin. 😊 

Donna Galanti
is the author of the middle grade adventure 
Joshua and The Lightning Road, which the Midwest Book Review called, “A heart-pounding thrill ride full of unexpected twists and turns from start to finish”. She’s also the author of the follow up, Joshua and the Arrow Realm, and writes the popular Unicorn Island series for Epic, the leading digital platform for kids 12 and under. Donna is a member of From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors blog, and regularly presents as a guest author at schools. She also loves teaching at writing conferences on marketing and craft and through her Udemy online courses. Donna has lived in England as a child, her family-owned campground in New Hampshire, and Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Visit her at  

Website * Twitter * Facebook 

Donna is hosting a really awesome giveaway! 

The Unicorn Island Prize Package includes: 
$25 Barnes and Noble Gift Card 
Unicorn LED night light and key chain 
Unicorn stickers, 2 pencils, 2 erasers 
Bookmarks and autographed bookplate 

This runs February 9th at 12a.m. through February 15th at 11:45p.m. USA and Canada only. 



DonnaGalanti said...

Thank you so much for reading and reviewing Unicorn Island! I am so glad you liked it. :) The next part of the series, Secret Beneath the Sand, releases on the Epic! platform, the leading digital library for kids, in May in 5 parts then in hardcover next winter. This was such a fun interview! It was a blast answering your questions!

Natalie Aguirre said...

So glad you enjoyed Unicorn Island. I loved the three words that Donna used to describe the story. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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