The Secret of the Unicorn: The Adventures of Tintin

Book review by
Blair Jackson, Common Sense Media
The Secret of the Unicorn: The Adventures of Tintin Book Poster Image
Exciting pirate-treasure search in classic Tintin series.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

Tintin is unfailingly honest, polite, reasonable and friendly -- but he will also defend himself and his friends any way he can.


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.


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!"

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRobbyWBoy16 January 3, 2012

tintin book

good book, mystery brings this book an adventure.
Kid, 8 years old January 5, 2020


I honestly don’t agree with the drinking it's not that bad Captain Haddock drinks a snowy the dog drinks whisky a little bit so does Tintin but the book is... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old July 27, 2018

Good Book

I really liked this book because it was very good. It has some cartoon violence, but there is no gore or blood. I think kids 9 + will really enjoy this, but it... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN, the intrepid young reporter Tintin, his ill-tempered friend Captain Haddock, and Tintin's faithful and funny terrier, Snowy, get swept up in a complicated mystery that leads to a search for lost pirate treasure. Along the way they encounter and sometimes battle with various odd and sinister people who are also on the trail of the treasure.

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!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Tintin adventures have been thrilling young readers around the world for more than 60 years. Why do you think this classic series is so popular?

  • The Secret of the Unicorn is one of 23 Tintin books. Have you read any of the others? If so, how does this one compare?

  • Tintin adventures are told in the style of a graphic novel, a kind of book that is quite popular today. What are the advantages of telling an action-adventure story this way?

  • Captain Haddock finds clues to treasure lost by his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, who commanded The Unicorn, a sailing ship in King Charles II's fleet, which was overtaken by pirates in 1676. Have you heard stories about any of your relatives who led adventurous lives years ago?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

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