I’m always on the lookout for a great book that won’t discourage young readers from moving up to middle grade novels. Often they choose something too challenging with 400 pages and a typeset sure to make their eyes wander. Well, look no further because I found the perfect one to begin their wondrous time with MG: Unicorn Island. Here’s the official synopsis:

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.

Sam is a character you will surely enjoy. She’s curious, not such a great cook, and with her musician mom always getting a new job—she rarely stays in one place very long. Now with Mom over in Europe, Sam is sent to live with Uncle Mitch in South Carolina. Things get off to a rather rocky start. Fortunately she meets a Tuck, an animal loving boy and a friendship begins. Together they uncover the mystery surrounding Unicorn Island, a fog shrouded place beyond the shores, but not too far off in the distant ocean.

Ten chapters and an epilogue have the story moving along at a steady pace. Read-alone or read aloud, Unicorn Island will for sure capture your imagination.

BOOK BIRTHDAY: February 9, 2021 PAGE COUNT: 224


  1. Colorful illustrations are a welcome addition throughout the pages. They add to the mood and are beautifully done my Bethany Stancliffe (I’ve included her bio below).
  2. You’ll be satisfied with the story and character arc but will want more. You won’t have to wait long as Book 2 in the series comes out this May.
  3. It was heartwarming to have Sam possibly finding her forever home and a possible father figure.
  4. The Unicorns. They’re sparkling white and the most magical creatures you’ll find anywhere. The author gives us a nice introduction to their world.
  5. The bonus content in the final pages gives background on The History of Unicorns, All About Wyverns, What Does a Veterinarian Do?, Pirates of the Carolinas, and Islands of Wild Horses. They each are informative and even this big adult learned a few new things.


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 writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com, 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. When she’s not writing you can find her on Twitter or Facebook where she loves to share all things about her outdoor adventures and children’s books. Donna has lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer, and has had a long career in corporate marketing. Visit her at donnagalanti.com.


Bethany Stancliffe is a Central-Washington-based artist who grew up in the Rockies, where she spent her time building tree forts, reading fairy tales, and filling up sketchbooks. Having had a spectrum of creative interests since childhood, she has found a home in illustration, where design and storytelling meet. Following in the footsteps of her parents, Bethany studied art and illustration at BYU-Idaho. She draws most of her inspiration from nature, films, and childhood adventures and has a love for interesting textures and patterns. When she’s not painting, she enjoys exploring outside with her son, Max, and creating original stories with her husband.


I received a copy of the book in return for my honest review. Comments are welcome below!

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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22 Responses to UNICORN ISLAND

  1. donnagalanti says:

    Greg, thank you so much for reading and reviewing Unicorn Island! I agree that it’s perfect for the younger middle grade set who are moving up from chapter books. I had so much fun writing it! Yes, book 2, Secret Beneath the Sand, releases digitally on the Epic! platform in May and then hardcover next winter.

  2. donnagalanti says:

    Reblogged this on Donna Galanti, Author and commented:
    What a fun review by Greg Pattridge with Always in the Middle book blog! 5 things to like about Unicorn Island!

  3. Glad you enjoyed Donna’s new book. I’ve heard a lot about it and am looking forward to reading it.

  4. Denise G says:

    My daughter is 8 and wanted to read MG books, but just like it says in this review, she chose a book much too challenging for her reading skills and has retreated back to chapter books. Unicorn Island sounds like the perfect choice to restart her journey.

    • donnagalanti says:

      Denise, I hope your daughter gives Unicorn Island a try and that she likes it. I had fun writing it, as well as book 2, Secret Beneath the Sand. I love writing books set in the real world but with magical unicorns–and you can’t get much more magical than unicorns!

  5. Debbie says:

    Good choice for a birthday gift. Thanks for the review.

  6. Keep hearing about this novel, so I’m glad to see your review today! Glad it introduces younger readers to fantasy that isn’t overwhelming. Love the 224 page count. Look forward to reading this story — I’m a kid at heart and love unicorns (especially the Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville).

  7. donnagalanti says:

    Natalie, thanks for stopping in! I’m looking forward to being on your blog in March. Thanks for all the support with Unicorn Island. 🙂

  8. Completely Full Bookshelf says:

    I remember seeing Stephanie Robinson review this book a few weeks ago over at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow, and your recommendation makes it sound even better! The various magical creatures obviously sound quite fun, and I also like that this book is accessible even to the very newest MG readers! Thanks for the great review!

    • donnagalanti says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, it was fun to create creature characters in the story–more than just unicorns. 🙂 And there are new creatures in the 2nd book, too, Secret Beneath the Sand, coming out this May.

  9. K.A. Cummins says:

    Sounds like a fun and delightful story. And one my nieces might love. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing the book and your thoughts!

    • donnagalanti says:

      Thanks so much! I hope your nieces love it. Sam, the main character, was a fun character to write. She is independent and strong, but also in need of family and friendship. 🙂

  10. This book has been getting some buzz. I think these transitional novels are so important to building life-long readers. I will be checking this one out. Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. What a beautiful cover! Thanks for sharing this review today 🙂

    • donnagalanti says:

      Thank you! The publisher, Andrews McMeel, did a beautiful job and the title on the front and spine are also in silver foil, along with the stars, so it really sparkles–like unicorns. 🙂

  12. Antoinette Truglio Martin says:

    You had me at Unicorn.

  13. Pingback: Enter to Win a Copy of Unicorn Island plus Reviews, Podcasts & a New Course for Writers! - Donna Galanti - Where heart and hope meet adventure!

  14. Pingback: UNICORN ISLAND Secret Beneath the Sand | Always in the Middle…

  15. Pingback: UNICORN ISLAND – Beyond the Portal | Always in the Middle…

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