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Unicorn Power!, Page 2

Mariko Tamaki

“Lumberjanes to the rescue!”


  There is a long and complex history of people finding magical creatures like unicorns and taking them home.

  This is, generally, a terrible idea.

  Unicorns, like most magical creatures, are not pets.

  The only thing that’s a pet is a pet.

  The exception is magical kittens, which are magical but also pets, but also a huge handful to care for.

  You think you know how to handle magical animals, you think, “Hey, no problem.” But that is rarely true.

  Magical creatures take up a lot of space, they are very picky eaters, and sometimes they breathe fire or blow long, sharp projectiles of ice out their nostrils.

  A Lumberjane respects all creatures of the wild, in all their shapes and sizes. Lumberjanes know that fauna (creatures) of the forest are often best off where you find them, whether that’s in the forest, at the bottom of a lake, or in a swamp.

  (Unless one day you meet a raccoon and he seems lonely and likes sleeping on your head like a hat, that’s a completely different thing, obviously.)

  Ripley didn’t want to take the unicorn home with her, tempting though it was. But she did want to help him get unlost.

  The unicorn now looked very vexed, turned his head this way and that, and whinnied worriedly.

  “We need a plan,” April said. “Toadstool formation!”

  Toadstool formation is distinct in that you stand in a triangle instead of a circle. For whatever reason, it works really well for coming up with ideas.

  Jo snapped her fingers. “Hey! If all unicorns smell like this one,” she noted, “then maybe we could smell the herd.”

  April pointed at Jo. “Yes! I like this. This sounds like the start of a good plan.”

  Mal leaned over to Molly and whispered, “Hey, is it me or is smelling a herd kind of hilarious?”

  “Agreed,” Molly whispered back.

  “How do we find a smell?” Ripley asked, gazing over at the still-nervous-looking unicorn and thinking that he smelled like a very old cheese sandwich she found in the back of her mom’s minivan once. But that was okay because the unicorn was also very, very soft.

  April raised her hand, because that’s what you do in class when you have an idea and some habits are hard to break. “Oh, oh, I know! If unicorns eat Clow Bells,” she said, “then we should look where the Clow Bells grow! Which is—”

  “What’s a cow bell?” Molly asked.

  “A CLOW Bell. I just found it in the flora and fauna guide!” April grabbed the book out of her pocket again. “Actually, it was kind of a mysterious drawing stuck into the guide, but still . . .”

  April flipped to the map at the back of the book, which was covered in little symbols showing what plants could be found in different regions. Someone had drawn a bunch of little diamonds for the Clow Bells, dotted all over the map. “Looks like there’s a lot of Clow Bells growing . . . a little north of here!” she told the group. With her free hand, April pulled her compass out of her pocket and waited for the needle to point north.

  “And if we start walking, we’ll know we’re headed in the right direction when we smell something that smells like the back seat of a really old school bus!” Molly cheered.

  April’s eyes sparkled with April-like determination. “Time to stop horsin’ around and get movin’!” she said.

  “Is a unicorn a horse?” Molly wondered.

  The Lumberjanes turned and looked at the unicorn, who looked back at them not so much expectantly but inquisitively.


  It is an incredibly handy thing to know how to move various large objects. There are several different Lumberjane badges that cover this skill, many of which April had already acquired.

  When it comes to moving unicorns, most people just wing it. This is probably the best approach, given that how you get a unicorn to move largely depends on the specific unicorn. Unicorns are a lot like people: Some of them are easily moved; some of them would rather just stay put and see what’s on TV.

  Very quickly it became clear that this particular unicorn, while lost, was not sure he wanted to go where the members of Roanoke cabin—April specifically—had planned.

  At first, the Lumberjanes thought they would just start walking and the unicorn would follow.

  That didn’t happen.

  The Lumberjanes took a few steps forward into the forest but then realized they were without the magical creature.

  “UGH. He’s not budging.” April squinted at the unicorn, trying to read his unicorn brain. “Maybe a zigzag would be more constructive.”

  April, Jo, and Mal walked back to the unicorn and then started north again, zigzagging at a slow jog. Nothing. They trudged back through the woods to find the unicorn standing there, looking at them, possibly quizzically.

  Although, as we said, it’s hard to tell.

  Who knew unicorns were stubborn? In all the books April had read, the unicorns were mostly . . . noble.

  Mal and Molly tried calling the unicorn. “HERE, UNICORN,” they trilled as they walked backward, waving their hands to get his attention.

  That also didn’t work.

  Ripley had the idea to push the unicorn from behind. Which they all quickly admitted was a horrible idea. Unicorns, on all four hoofs, are as immovable as a house.

  Maybe more.

  Technically, Jo knew, to move a house you needed a unified hydraulic jacking system. Not that you would use that to move a unicorn. Unless . . .

  “Well,” Molly said, taking a break from unicorn shoving to catch her breath, “maybe he’s not lost. Maybe this is just where he wants to be.”

  Ripley shook her head. “He’s lost. I know it.” Putting both her hands on the unicorn’s cheeks, Ripley pressed her forehead against his broad, but difficult to interpret, white face. “I can feel it.”

  The unicorn blinked his blue eyes and snorted.

  “Maybe we just need to sing him a unicorn song,” Ripley suggested. “You know, it could be like . . .” Ripley tilted her head and, holding her palms up to the sky, started to sing in a sweet, high-pitched little voice. “La la la unicorn soooong! La la la la uuuuuuunicorn song.”

  When that didn’t work, she started . . . kind of . . . yelling the song. “LA LA LA UNICORN SOOOONG! LA! LA! LA! UUUUNICORN SSSSOOOONGGGG!!!!”


  “Hey.” Molly reached down and grabbed a small bouquet of what Clow Bells were left. “What if we lure him with these?”

  Molly took a few steps in the direction April said they needed to go, turned, and shook the Clow Bells at the unicorn. “Hey! Unicorn! Uh. You hungry?” She called out.

  The unicorn lifted his head.

  “Come on,” Ripley whispered encouragingly, putting her hand on the unicorn’s neck and taking a small step forward. “You can do it.”

  The unicorn swished his tail, whinnied, and moved toward Molly.

  April pulled the last Clow Bell she could find out of the ground in case they lost momentum.

  Aaaand they were off! The Lumberjanes, and the unicorn, started walking northish, still in a zigzag pattern but at a regular speed. Everyone was feeling a combination of elated (that the unicorn was now moving), enchanted (to be walking so close to an enchanted creature), and a little overwhelmed by the olfactory experience (the smell).

  “I hope we find his family, herd, whatever,” Mal said to Molly, as the two of them walked a bit ahead, and a bit upwind, of the unicorn. Mal wondered if the unicorn was worried he wouldn’t see his other unicorns ever again.

  Molly was thinking about what it was like to feel like a unicorn. Molly sometimes felt like a unicorn when she was with her family.

  Jo spotted the herd first, although everybody smelled something before they hit the edge of the forest, where the trees gave way to a lush meadow of green. “Ursula K. Le Guin! We found it!”

  In and among the green, there was a sea, a rainbow, of unicorns, all with different-colored tai
ls (reds and blues and yellows and greens). Their horns twinkled in the sun as they munched and meandered in lazy zigzags.

  “Wow,” Molly breathed, in awe. “It’s like a coloring book come to life.”

  “To the max,” Jo added.

  “It’s positively Yayoi Kusama,” April sighed.

  The previously lost, now found unicorn gave a little neigh and trotted forward, away from the Lumberjanes, through the grass, waving his tail.

  The other unicorns stopped munching and raised their heads. A few of them neighed back at the unicorn as if to say, “Hey, where have you been?”

  “Yay!” Ripley cheered, twirling. “Unicorn is home! YAY UNICORN!”

  “Wow, there’s . . . uh . . . Clow Bells everywhere!” Jo noted, taking in the sight of rainbow unicorns and Clow Bells as far as the eye could see.

  “YAY CLOW BELLS!” Ripley cheered again, jumping up and down in the tall grass. “It’s their home,” she sang. “YAY Clow Bell Unicorn City!”

  Molly and Mal simultaneously had a thought that Clow Bell Unicorn City would be a really great band name.

  Ripley was so happy she started doing a happy dance. Ripley had amazing happy dances. They were springy and slippy and involved a lot of Ripley being up in the air and not necessarily on the ground. She waved her arms in the air and hopped from one foot to the other. Ripley’s dad said she was born dancing. That was probably true.

  Mal and Molly smiled as Ripley did her dance.

  Jo smiled too. “Hey, we did it! Not bad for a day’s scouting.”

  “Agreed,” April said. Then, looking up, she spotted a thing that was pretty easy to spot because it was gigantic.


  “Humongous,” April said, because humongous was a much better word.

  Jo raised an eyebrow. “Holy Junko Tabei! That is pretty cool.”

  What they were looking at, past the fields of green and blue Clow Bells, past the unicorns with their rainbow tails, past all these things and stretching up to the sky, was a mountain. And not even just any mountain, a mountain that seemed to be as big as the sky. A mountain made of rock that changed from purple to blue to gray to purple again as the sun grazed over its face. A mountain covered in bits of sparkly whiteness outlining jagged peaks.

  April tipped her head back. “Wow, you can’t even see the top, even if I tip my head back as far as it will go.”

  The very tip-top of the mountain, or at least as far up as April could see, was ringed with peachy pink clouds. Like a halo.

  Jo looked up. “It’s pretty awesome,” she concurred. “What do you think it’s called?”

  “I don’t know,” April said. “But we sh—”


  Mal, Molly, Jo, Ripley, and April spun around. Emerging from the forest was Jen, general smart person, amazing astronomer, Roanoke camp counselor extraordinaire.

  Jen did not look amused. She looked very very unamused. Her Lumberjanes uniform, which she usually wore in this way that looked super profesh, was so soaking wet it wasn’t even its regular green and yellow. Her superlong black hair was waterlogged and hung down on her shoulders like seaweed. Her little green beret, which usually looked pretty jaunty, sat on the top of her head like a soggy paper plate. Jen stomped through the grass toward the scouts. Her shoes made squitch, squitch, squitch sounds. She looked like someone who had spent a very long time looking for a group of scouts who should have been in a place and weren’t in that place.

  The members of Roanoke cabin were rarely where they were supposed to be. Mostly because there were so many other places to be!

  “JEN!” They all cried in unison.

  “Hey, Jen,” Jo added. “Are you okay? What happened to you?”

  “Hey, Jen,” Molly wondered. “Did you fall in a lake or something?”

  Mal had the distinct sense that “what happened to you” was not the main question to be answered right now.

  “Funny you should ask—YES, I DID! How did that happen, Jen? Let me tell you! I LEFT YOU FOR TEN MINUTES,” Jen raved, waving her arms in the air like someone trying to catch a cab in the rain. “TEN MINUTES! And all you had to do was take a teeny-tiny part of your day to look for FLOWERS. FLOWERS! But no! I come back and you’ve all just POOF!”

  “Actually,” Molly considered, “it was more like ZIP!”

  “We were looking for flowers!” April explained. “And we found Clow Bells, and then we saw—”

  Jen shook her head, sending out a shower of water droplets. “JUST ONCE, ONCE, I’d like to tell you guys to do something and have you do it.”

  Jen pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath. “Find your calm center, Jen,” she whispered. “It’s in there somewhere.”

  Jen was an amazing camp counselor, if sometimes very stressed because she was constantly dealing with campers who refused to follow the very-clear-and-for-their-own-safety rules. Rules that Jen liked because they were the glue that held things together. Rules were a Band-Aid, a safeguard, and a necessity—and, HECK, rules were RULES!

  Rules, like always tell your counselor where you’re going, and don’t run off to catch a unicorn without telling your camp counselor first, were IMPORTANT.

  Jen stopped, possibly taking in, for the first time, the fact that the members of Roanoke cabin weren’t alone. “Is that a field of unicorns behind you?”

  The unicorns stopped munching momentarily and looked at Jen. One of them whinnied as if to say, “Yes. Yes it is.”

  “Yup,” Jo concurred.

  “We found the Clow Bells,” April continued in rapid fire, “which, it turns out, unicorns eat! Which I should probably document—”

  Jen’s eyes widened. “Well, that’s . . .”

  “Also—” April began.

  But then Jen clamped her hand over her nose. “What is that smell?!”

  “The unicorns,” Molly finished. “Sort of . . . smell. Bad.”

  “They ACTUALLY smell bad,” Mal clarified.

  “AREN’T THEY AWESOME!?” Ripley cheered.

  “They smell like sweat sock stew,” Jen said, her eyes watering.

  “Ripley saw the unicorn and we chased him,” April started up again, because there was so much more to say, “and . . . this is a long story but . . . then when we found the unicorn, he was lost so—”

  “All right,” Jen sighed. Then she put one hand on her hip and kept the other on her nose. “If you guys want dinner, we need to get back to camp, PRONTO!”

  Mal and Molly and Jo weren’t sure if they still wanted dinner, now that they were thinking about sock stew, but it seemed like a good idea to head back.

  Ripley took one last moment to say good-bye to her unicorn, who seemed happy to be back chomping Clow Bells with his fellow unicorns. Ripley gave the unicorn a hug and the unicorn took a moment to nudge Ripley’s back with his nose. Which is sort of a unicorn hug.

  “I’m going to call you Dr. Twinkle,” Ripley whispered into the supersoft unicorn fur.

  Dr. Twinkle whinnied as if to say, “Okay, whatever you want, kid. I’m going to go back to my munching if you don’t mind.”

  April stood in the field. The unicorns grazed and flicked their rainbow tails, and behind them, the impossibly (except nothing is impossible) colossal mountain stretched up almost past the sky. It was a kind of perfect Lumberjane moment. It was—

  “APRIL!” Jen hollered, tromping back toward camp. “LET’S GO!”

  “Smell you later,” April whispered. Then she turned on her heels and headed back to camp. “COMING!”


  Located in the heart of the forest, at the entrance to the Lumberjanes camp, is a tall wooden archway with a sign that reads, MISS QIUNZELLA THISKWIN PENNIQUIQUL THISTLE CRUMPET’S CAMP FOR HARDCORE LADY-TYPES.

  If you look closely, you will see that the Hardcore Lady-Types part of the sign is actually another piece of wood nailed onto the original sign. Underneath, the original sign might have read CAMP FOR GIRLS OR CHIPM
UNKS OR PONIES OR GIRLISH CHIPMUNK PONIES. But clearly someone, at some time, decided to make it clear that Hardcore Lady-Types were top on the agenda at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp.

  Hanging under the archway is another sign that reads, FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX, because being a friend, a really amazing friend, is a big part of being a Lumberjane.

  Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp has existed for more decades than anyone currently at the camp, or even on the board of directors, can say for sure. It is a camp for discoverers and adventurers, creative types and athletic types, and anyone who doesn’t think they are or have a type.

  Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet herself once proclaimed that a Lumberjane was anyone who had the gumption, the know-how, and the wherewithal to want to be something more than she was already. Miss Qiunzella herself was an inventor (credited with early designs of what would eventually become the elevator and Frisbee), a hot-air balloonist, an ardent cyclist (who once circled the globe on a bicycle), a sculptor, a fencing champion, and an overall hearty adventurer, who also pioneered early scuba gear. She was also the author of several short stories about Merfolk, collected in the books A Lady’s Under-the-Sea Summer Vacations with the Merfolk and Underwater Etiquette.

  Past the archway is a circle of cabins and a big open field, at the center of which is a flagpole flying the Lumberjanes’ double-ax flag. The field also has tennis nets, a volleyball net, stands for watching tennis or volleyball, a stage, and a bunch of picnic benches for crafting or eating or hanging out. There’s the beaver fire pit, guarded by several stoic beaver (and other animal) carvings, where marshmallows are roasted, ghost stories traded, and several folk songs have been written and sung. Just past the fire pit is the path that snakes up to the camp workshop, garage, and kiln, then the arts and crafts cabin, and down the path a bit, the camp library.

  Generally, in the center of camp, in the big clearing next to the fire pit, there are tons and tons of scouts, doing what scouts do.

  Which, on any given day, could be one of many many many things, including learning how to build a fire, a canoe, a cabin, or a kite; decorating a cake or a kimono; making brisket, cinnamon buns, or bagels. This is, of course, an abbreviated list, ’cause the actual complete list is really long.