The Creature of the Pines: The Unicorn Rescue Society, Book 1

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Creature of the Pines: The Unicorn Rescue Society, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Kids save mythical creature in sweet, funny fantasy.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The first installment in a new series about mythical creatures from around the world. Has lots of detail about the history, inhabitants, and environment of New Jersey's Pine Barrens.

Positive Messages

Kindness, friendship, bravery, and acceptance are all strong themes in a tale set in a place that for centuries served as a home and haven for all kinds of refugees and outcasts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kid characters Elliott and Uchenna -- he's the quiet, risk-averse, think-everything-through type, while she's extroverted and adventurous -- are a good team who find clever ways to work together and keep the Jersey Devil safe and (mostly) out of trouble. Adult characters Dr. Thomas, who grew up in the Pine Barrens, and Dr. Fauna, who comes from Peru, are definitely eccentric, but also kind, resourceful, full of cool knowledge and stories.

Violence & Scariness

Dealing with a small enraged mythical creature can be scary, but it helps to have almond bars.


Numerous humorous references to butts, farts, pee, and other gross details. Kids who speak Spanish will get a kick out of Professor Fauna exclaiming "Palabra mala!" ("rude word") for a swear word.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Creature of the Pines is the first book in a new series by storyteller Adam Gidwitz, about the adventures of The Unicorn Rescue Society, dedicated to keeping mythical creatures safe, wherever they may be. It's a quick, lighthearted read that Gidwitz packs with a lot of positive messages -- bravery! diversity! friendship! quick thinking! -- without getting annoying about it, and sets up lots of fun adventures to come. A bit of brief, middle grade-ish pee, fart, and butt humor keeps it real.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6-year-old Written bySide_Step November 20, 2020

Fantastic book series

This book series is our family's favorite ever. The stories are funny without being cheesy, a smart kind of humor, while being gripping and suspenseful in... Continue reading
Parent of a 6, 7, and 12-year-old Written byGrandma Kathy May 14, 2019

Excellent newer series

My granddaughter really loved this book. I gave it to her for Christmas at 7 and she came and showed it to me as her "new book she just loves" just a... Continue reading

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What's the story?

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES meets kid Elliot Eisner, who likes an orderly life, and also being well prepared for what's coming up -- which happens less and less as the story unfolds. Elliot's already bummed about having to start a  new school several weeks into the new year, but then things really run off the rails: It turns out the class is going on a field trip on his very first day. Their destination is the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, site of much history, cultural significance, and interesting nature -- to say nothing of the Jersey Devil, a winged, furry, red-and-blue mythical being reported in the area for centuries, who sounds a lot like the fierce little critter Elliot and fellow new kid Uchenna find in distress and then rescue. Now what?

Is it any good?

Deft storyteller Adam Gidwitz's new series about mythical beings and the kids who rescue them is off to a great start in this lighthearted, funny tale with positive messages that never get preachy. Whimsical illustrations from Hatem Ali help define the characters and setting as well as advance the story. As The Creature of the Pines emerges from the woods and changes the lives of school kids, there are strong themes of friendship, imagination, courage, and kindness  -- and also appreciating diversity. Here, adult character Dr. Thomas, descended from runaway slaves, fleeing Native Americans, and Irish, Jewish, and French people who all sought refuge in the Pine Barrens, says, "I kind of think of myself as a mix of every race, every people in New Jersey. I'm like a medley -- a bunch of different songs all flowing together."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about legendary creatures still reported to be living around the world, like the Loch Ness Monster, or The Creature of the Pines. How do you think these tales spring up in different areas? What keeps them going?

  • Are there local legends where you live about the people (or creatures) who used to live there? Are they exciting? Do you believe any of them?

  • If you had to start at a new school in the middle of the school year, what would be the hardest thing to deal with? What might be great?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and history

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