Fern wasn’t like the other unicorns.
Instead of spectacular leaps
over shimmering rainbows,
she preferred building robots
in her laboratory.
Rather than splashing majestically
in mountain waterfalls,
she enjoyed coding software to program her computer.
and 3D printers instead of sparkles.
And even though she knew she was different from
the other unicorns, Fern was proud of who she was.
Nerdycorn is everything the title implies – being a nerd can be challenging. Fern knows she is a unique unicorn and accepts this about herself; her friends do not. Being yourself is important, but standing up for yourself is equally important. Fern is not bothered about being different. In fact, she celebrates this difference, and she sets out to get her friends to accept and celebrate this too.
How is Fern a nerd? Well, she is a unicorn interested in using code to program her computer, reading, exploring chemistry and printing on 3D printers. The rest of her unicorn friends prefer the usual unicorn activities – diving into waterfalls, Sparkle Dance Parties, and painting rainbows.
Fern’s motto is “to be smart, a good friend, and always willing to help others.” Carrying out this motto becomes problematic for Fern when her friends do not reciprocate this same ideal. They laugh at her nerdy glasses (using two donuts held up to their eyes), tease her about her rainbow-coloured line graph painting (they only paint rainbows) and never invite her to their Sparkle Dance Parties. After all the help she gives her friends, she becomes fed up with their lack of reciprocity. She decides to stop fixing their broken toys and party machines. She hides in her laboratory and dives into the “zero-gravity ice-cream experiment”.
The result? Her friends seek her out in desperation when the confetti machine gets clogged, the rainbow synthesizer runs out of twinkle power and the starlight bedazzler stops working. The Sparkler Dance Party is ruined unless Fern saves the day! After initially closing the door and refusing to help, Fern’s motto reminds her to be a good friend and always be willing to help. And so she unlocks her door, gathers her tools and fixes the machines. The Dance Party is saved, and the unicorn friends realize that they need to put Fern’s motto into practice in their own lives! They begin to join Fern in her laboratory, learning to code, solder and recalibrate experiment equipment while also enjoying the usual unicorn activities. Friendships are reconciled and grow stronger as is evident on the final page – Fern’s zero-gravity ice-cream experiment on the moon has turned into the Dance Party extravaganza!
The book design and illustrations are gorgeous! The cover page and back cover showcase Fern in her element: she stands in the center surrounded by all her nerdy science “stuff” – Bunsen burner, beakers, robot, gears, wires curling everywhere. The dust cover is identical with the front flap giving the usual summary of the story and the back flap giving biographical information about the author and illustrator. What is noteworthy is that both the author and illustrator identify as being viewed as somewhat nerdy at different points in their lives and are evidently writing and illustrating themes that they have themselves experienced.
The book’s endpapers highlight the favorite colours of the “normal” unicorn – rainbow colours with stars decorating the top horizontal and bottom horizontal bands of colour. This design element connects to the unicorns within – Fern’s “rude” friends who epitomize the unicorn passion for glitz and glamour.
The illustrations, themselves, were carved and printed with wood and then coloured digitally. This gives a texture to the cartoon illustrations that are fresh and novel in appearance. Each image has clean lines almost as if it had been cut out and glued to overlap. The illustrations in Nerdycorn are brightly coloured throughout, even in Fern’s home laboratory. Use of all colours of the rainbow is evident on each page and captures the reader’s eye.
Karina Wiebenga is a grade 4 educator in Burnaby, British Columbia.