I’m thrilled to have author Donna Galanti here with me today. We’re both unicorn lovers, and she has another delightful book in her Unicorn Island series to share with us. We’re both so glad this book has finally arrived after its long journey.
Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand (Volume 2)
By Donna Galanti
Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe
Andrews McMeel Publishing (Simon & Schuster)
Unicorn Island is a middle-grade illustrated novel series about a young girl who discovers a mysterious island full of mythical beasts. School Library Journal says that “Fans of unicorns and magic in the real world will enjoy this adventure,” and Foreword Reviews claims it’s “An all-too-human, enchanting middle grade fantasy novel.”
In Volume 2 of the Unicorn Island series, Secret Beneath the Sand, Sam and Tuck are on their way to becoming unicorn protectors when they discover new secrets about the island that threaten unicorns’ existence!
Sam can’t believe how much her life and luck have changed since she came to Foggy Harbor: First, she discovered that unicorns are real, and now she’s on her way to becoming an actual unicorn protector! With her new friend, Tuck, by her side during Uncle Mitch’s lessons, Sam finally feels like she’s home.
But as the long-buried dangers of Unicorn Island begin to surface and a mysterious scourge spreads throughout the herd, Sam learns the truth behind Aunt Sylvie’s disappearance and her own connection to the island. With determination, courage, and fierce loyalty to one another—and to their code as unicorn protectors—the kids set out to protect the island’s secrecy and the unicorns’ very existence.
Donna is giving away one hardcover copy of Secret Beneath the Sand that Kirkus Reviews says is “A sweet but not overly sugary treat for unicorn devotees.” Open to U.S residents only please. Enter below!
Interview with Donna and Laurie:
Laurie: What was the inspiration behind this second Unicorn Island story idea for Secret Beneath the Sand?
Donna: I wanted to continue Sam’s story of becoming a full-fledged unicorn protector while also adding a new layer of mystery to the unicorn magic and solving the mystery presented in book one. I also wanted the characters to explore more of the island itself on their adventures so its mysteries—and challenges—are revealed. With these elements in mind, the story grew. I also knew I wanted to add in new fantastical creatures, and they were fun to create!
L: In the story, a mysterious disease threatens the unicorns. Even though unicorns are mythical, was there any research involved in writing this story?
D: Absolutely! My research was based on real-life science. I looked to the plight of elephants with their tusks being poached as a source of inspiration in relation to unicorn horns and their dire situation in the story. The atrocities that still plague elephants deeply affect me. Recent studies even suggest that as a result of widespread poaching, elephants are rapidly evolving to have no tusks.
L: Throughout the series, you introduce both science and magic. What was your purpose in combining these?
D: I love combining both science and magic in this story as I like to think we can have our feet in both worlds—and together, they can do wonders. It also adds to the conflict of the story as some characters view science as the answer and some view magic as the answer. Together, they discover that maybe both are necessary.
L: The story centers around not just unicorns but family and a sense of home. How does this change for Sam, the main character, in this second book?
D: Sam discovered new family in book one, but she is still drawn to solving another family mystery. This drives her to take high-risk actions in Secret Beneath the Sand to uncover the truth in the hope of benefiting those she loves. Through her choices, she comes to strengthen the foundation of her sense of home as she navigates this mystery.
L: You have other fantastical creatures in Unicorn Island besides unicorns. What influenced you to create them and add them into the story?
D: One of my favorite little wild animals are chipmunks. I grew up with them and loved to discover them in the woods. For years, I was sad to not live in chipmunk territory, but since moving last year, I was ecstatic to discover I am now back in chipmunk land! Hence, why they had an influence on me creating a similar creature in Secret Beneath the Sand. As a young reader in school, I was also fascinated with the mythical character of Grendel from the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, “Beowulf.” I’m drawn to tragic characters, and his was quite tragic—and why I’ve included a nod to him in this story. I’ve also been super lucky to have had the amazing illustrator, Bethany Stancliffe, bring these creatures to life!
L: I love chipmunks too! What a fun animal to include with your unicorns! And now that we’ve heard a bit about books one and two, I hope you’ll give us a sneak peek into what we can expect when the third volume of Unicorn Island releases in winter of 2023. Can you share some of what’s next for Sam and her best friend, Tuck, and the unicorns in this final installment of the series?
D: In the working title, Beyond the Portal, Sam is inspired to solve the final mystery of her family and save the unicorns. Once again, she puts herself in dire danger to do so, accompanied by her friend, Tuck. I won’t give too much away, except to say that much of this story takes place in a new and perilous setting. Tuck and Sam face the unknown again in a much more impactful way that has far-reaching consequences for all. 😊
Purchase the Unicorn Island series at your favorite bookseller here:
Watch the book trailer for Unicorn Island: Secret Beneath the Sand here:
Download fun Secret Beneath the Sand activities and check out an excerpt from Secret Beneath the Sand below:
Sam frowned. A month ago, it had seemed that Mel, Foggy Harbor’s veterinarian and Tuck’s mom, had cured Barloc of a strange illness. But now that Sam thought about it, the young unicorn had seemed more tired this past week. He was running more slowly and sleeping a lot more.
She knelt in front of Barloc, looking into his violet eyes. I won’t let anything bad happen to you. I promise. She gripped the necklace that Verny had given to her. Made from a unicorn tail, it was a symbol of his trust.
Barloc closed his eyes. I’m just tired. I have been since I got back to the island.
Sam bent her head to his and laid a hand on his horn. It felt warm against her fingers. She frowned and held the back of her hand against his horn to make sure she wasn’t imagining things. It was definitely radiating heat.
“Uncle Mitch,” Sam said, her voice quavering, “I think something’s wrong with Barloc.”
Uncle Mitch quickly knelt down next to her. He checked the young unicorn’s eyes and breathing, then stroked his horn.
“His horn is warm,” Sam whispered. “What does it mean?”
Uncle Mitch shook his head and bit his lip as he continued his inspection. Barloc whinnied softly, looking into Sam’s eyes.
“I know you don’t want to think about this, but . . . it could be the sign of another disease,” Tuck said.
“No!” Sam shook her head and jumped up. As she did, the ground beneath her suddenly rocked. She fell to her knees as the earth buckled. Uncle Mitch grabbed both her and Tuck, pulling them in close as Verny screeched and took to the skies, circling overhead with frenzied dips.
The herd bolted across the meadow in confusion and fear as Barloc bowed his head, digging his hooves into the quaking earth.
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, the popular Unicorn Island series, and the Element Trilogy thrillers for adults. Donna is a member of From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors blog, regularly presents as a guest author at schools, and teaches writers through her online Udemy courses. She’s lived in fun locations including England, her family-owned campground in New Hampshire, and in Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer for Fleet Intelligence Pacific. Donna is represented by Liza Fleissig of the LRA Agency. Visit her at donnagalanti.com.
Enter to win a copy of Secret Beneath the Sand below! Runs 3/11/22 – 3/18/22