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The Unicorn Story

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

We are delighted to announce our new book 'Unicorns in Gymnastica' is here! The whole family learned to be patient during the process while it took two years for the collaboration to produce a book we can hold. We would now like to take you behind the scenes and tell you all about the magical world where all animals are unicorns and use their horns to hunt, play and paint.


The story of 'Unicorns in Gymnastica' came together in Manhattan in the spring of 2018. It all started with our daughter Emilee, who was three years old at the time and obsessed with unicorns. Soon we all imagined a world where animals were unicorns and used their horns in every day life. Bears, ants, cheetahs, mountain goats, monkeys and sharks - no animal was off the imagination limits. The story stalled until Eira, the budding gymnast, unblocked it with the idea that the world they all lived in was Gymnastica, and unicorns could pose in gymnastic moves. Finally, several family conversations helped tease out the mysteries of this story of artists, stuffies, and humans with horns.

“Unicorns in Gymnastica tells a story about how all animals were once unicorns. It follows birds as they use their horns to weave nests, penguins using their horns to play ice hockey, and bats as they use their horns to make cave-paintings. Each animal is also using a gymnastics move as they stretch and leap across the pages. A twist in the story comes with the explanation for why we don't see so many unicorn animals today. I was drawn to this story because it's very whimsical and active. I wanted to incorporate Emilee and Eira doing gymnastics in the illustrations, so I used a technique of xerox-transfers to embed photos of the kids into the art. I also got to play around with showing movement over time, and made illustrations inspired by Muybridge's early photographs of animal motion.”

Alexis Kandra, artist

Alexis Kandra, a New York based artist we previously worked with on The Redwood Tree and Its Friends, grew up with a passion for making art and the natural world. As a child, she took art classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History that fostered her love of dioramas, biodiversity, and searching for our place in the universe. Alexis inspired the story with her imaginative sketches, and Eira’s gymnastics instructor Renee helped stage the photos. Emilee improvised her own poses and moves.

We hope our books inspire readers to be writers, artists and doers. If you like the magical Gymnastica world, you can introduce new animals as unicorns and continue the story. Draw unicorn animals in other gymnastic poses and create your own collaborative fantasy books!   Vlada

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