A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The vocabulary in this, and all Tintin adventures, is quite advanced and also very British in places -- it was translated from Herge's original French for an English audience, not an American one. There are realistic depictions of pirate life on the high seas in some flashback scenes, and the regular action shows a slice of what life was like in the 1940s -- the telephones, cars, clothes, etc. The story is sufficiently complex that it requires real attention to follow its twists and turns.
Tintin and his friends are loyal to each other and united in their fight against the bad guys. They never initiate violence, only react to it.
Positive Role Models
Tintin is unfailingly honest, polite, reasonable and friendly -- but he will also defend himself and his friends any way he can.
Violence & Scariness
The cartoonish action includes gunfire, fistfights, an explosion, a swordfight, a menacing dog, and assorted slapstick mayhem -- especially when the bungling, incompetent look-alike (but unrelated) detectives, Thompson and Thomson, appear. There is no blood; however, one minor character dies after being shot.
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There is no actual cursing, but the temperamental Captain Haddock constantly shouts strange and funny insults at people who cross him, such as "Earthworm!" "Sea- gherkin!" "Vermicelli!" "Pyrographers!" "Saucy Tramp!" "Bashi-bazouk!" and also utters variations on his famous expression of astonishment: "Blistering barnacles and thundering typhoons!"
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Tintin's troublemaking sidekick, Captain Haddock, is an alcoholic who drinks his way through every adventure and whose obsession with whiskey invariably has negative (and often hilarious) consequences. In The Secret of the Unicorn (and in a couple of other Tintin books), even Tintin's faithful dog, Snowy, gets a little tipsy when he carelessly laps up some booze. But Tintin himself is a straight arrow who's always trying to keep the captain away from whiskey.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Secret of the Unicorn is actually part one of a two-part adventure rendered in highly realistic comic book/graphic novel style by the Belgian artist/writer Herge in the mid-1940s. This story of a hunt for lost pirate treasure ends in a cliffhanger, with the actual undersea search occurring in the follow-up, Red Rackham's Treasure. Those two books, along with episodes from the unrelated Tintin adventure The Crab With the Golden Claws, are the basis of the Steven Spielberg-directed 2011 animated film The Adventures of Tintin.
Is It Any Good?
The realistic artwork is magnificently detailed and the characters -- some funny, some ordinary, some menacing -- are vividly drawn, as well. The story is sophisticated and engaging. There is lots of broad comedy but also plenty of serious action. Reading The Secret of The Unicorn without its sequel, Red Rackham's Treasure, would be very frustrating, however. Warning: Tintin books can become addictive!
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.