Not Quite Narwhal

Title: Not Quite Narwhal
Author/Illustrator: Jessie Sima
Published: Simon and Schuster, 2017

Know what’s awesome? Unicorns. Also, narwhals. So that would make a unicorn/narwhal mash-up the most awesome creature in the universe, right?
Jessie Sima’s Not Quite Narwhal is absolutely adorable, from start to finish. The front cover is so cute, it’s impossible NOT to pick the book up and have a read.

The story follows the sweetly named Kelp. He was born in the ocean and raised by a pod of narwhals. It’s immediately apparent (to both the reader and the narwhals) that Kelp is a bit different – he has a shorter tusk, likes different food than the others and doesn’t actually swim very well. No one really minds, though, so neither does he.

One day, Kelp happens to surface and, in the distance, sees a creature that looks just like him…a land narwhal, if you will. After taking the time to learn how to walk, Kelp searches for and finds a whole group of unicorns.

The unicorns teach Kelp all about being a land narwhal. Kelp has a lot of fun and LOVES being a unicorn, but he misses his underwater friends. So he goes back.

His friends are glad to see him and confirm that yes, they know he’s a unicorn. Kelp is torn. He wants to be part of both worlds, but how can he possibly choose?

It turns out, in classic picture-book-happy-ending-fashion that he doesn’t have to! (There’s a land/water volley-ball game that illustrates this point perfectly.)

The three things I liked the most about this book are:

  1. The art is absolutely adorable. There really isn’t a better word for it. The pastel palette is so sweet and the character design is lovely.
    2. The message of ‘you can belong in two places’ is extremely comforting (and true).
    3. Kelp’s determination to learn how to walk/to find the land narwhals/to continue swimming although he’s not fast is commendable. He’s strong. He’ll get there. Kids need to see this more; you can’t just expect to do something the first time. Learning a new skill takes practice!

The only criticism my girls had was (sigh…wait for it): Kelp would’ve been better had he been a girl. Of course, they literally say this for every single book we have, but in this case I think they were genuinely confused as to why a cute little unicorn would be a boy. We did have the discussion about “boys can like cute and can actually be cute,” but they were hell-bent on calling Kelp a ‘she’.

But that’s just them.

That minor detail aside, they loved Not Quite Narwhal and we have read it probably ten times since we borrowed it from the library. I think we’ll have to add this one to our own collection pretty soon!

Mama’s review: A
Vivi’s review: 10 (girl) unicorns
Lily’s review: “I like narwhals!”

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