Have you ever felt like a unicorn? 

The odd-one-out?

The rarity in the herd? 

In the children’s book writer’s world, I have.

Unlike many of my contemporaries, I didn’t spend lazy summer days, dark, stormy nights, and every other waking moment of my childhood with a book in my hands, nor did I write my first book at the age of six. I have, however, oftentimes envied them. Especially those
who had hunkered down in bed with the covers pulled over their heads, a flashlight in hand because they couldn’t sleep until they’d uncovered the secret to a garden or learned where Papa was going with that ax. The only place you’d have found a flashlight in our house would have been in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, hidden in a forest of dishwashing liquid, furniture polish, ammonia, Ajax, and bunches of rusty Brillo pads. 

Great Kills Public Library (Staten Island NY)

Don’t get me wrong. I did love to read. Just not voraciously. Books weren’t all that available to me. There was no library in my school, nor were there outings to any either. On occasion however, I was allowed to walk with my best friend to the one in town.

We’d set out on our adventure strolling up the block, hang a left at the sand pit, run past the swamp (wouldn’t you have when you were nine?), stroll down the path through the woods that ended on a crescent shaped dirt road, and continue along the curve that hugged a lime-green-scum-covered brown pond. Here, we’d stop to feed the ducks for a moment, then move on down a paved street, cross over the railroad tracks, and onto the main road. This might sound like some isolated town in the middle of nowhere, but it is a borough of New York City, albeit the most rustic in the mid-1960’s. 

No. Nancy Drew, Wilbur, Charlotte, and the four kids that walked through a wardrobe were not even the tiniest blip on my literary radar. Although I do remember leaving that library cradling a stack of books in my arms and being extra careful not to drop one anywhere near that scummy pond for fear it would be snatched and swallowed up by some looming swamp monster. No way was I going to put myself in danger of having to wrangle a book out of some slimy amphibian’s saw-toothed choppers. My allowance was allotted to penny candies, not paying a fine on damp, serrated overdue library books. 

My own library collection began with CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG, a Scholastic Book Club favorite. Eventually a treasury of GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES landed on my shelf. The originals. The version where Cinderella is not a Walt Disney adaptation. In my book, one step sister cuts off a big toe and the other a heel to fit a foot into the slipper which is not made of glass, but gold. In this not-so-happily-ever-after-for-those-who-deserve-being-punished-for-their-actions, pigeon’s peck the sisters’ eyes out at the wedding. The gruesome ending drives home a lesson, doesn’t it? It also explains why I’d kept a healthy distance from flocks of birds and strove to be a good little girl.

I’m sure the seeds that grew into my adult love of travel and adventure were planted by the intrepid protagonists in GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, TREASURE ISLAND, KON-TIKI, THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS, in particular THE SEVEN VOYAGES OF SINBAD THE SAILOR. I only wish they had included tips on how to maintain a sturdy pair of sea legs and keep my lunch down in rolling swells. My dog-sled adventure in the arctic in 2016 was a dream come true inspired by my love for the Encyclopedia Britannica’s Tru-To-Life-Books edition of ESKIMO FAMILY. As for the the sword wielding heroes fighting for justice in my dusty, dog-eared copy of THE THREE MUSKETEERS? Might they have been the motivation for my inner child to finally step forth and prod me into wielding a pen instead of a blade? 

As I’m sharing my  little secret with you now, it’s becoming clear to me that I did do a fair share of reading in those early years.

Perhaps not as much as most authors, but enough. Enough to have inspired me to write. Enough to have propelled my pen into action, coax the shy wordsmith from the shadows, and send me on a quest to find my voice, hone that voice, and to use it…that voice that is uniquely mine. The voice that separates me from the rest. 

I like to think we are all unicorns.
Each one of us, a rarity in the herd.

❤ for stopping by today ❤

Please share your unicorness in the comments.

About Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner

I am an adventure seeking ponderer of the mysteries of the universe, writer of children's books (represented by Stephen Fraser of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency), and lover of anything involving armor, archery, or swashbuckling.
This entry was posted in ADVENTURES, CHILDHOOD, Essay, PONDERINGS, WRITING CHALLENGES and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I did most of my reading in my youth but hardly get to read nearly as much in my adulthood…and it sounds like your situation was the reverse!


  2. The reading as a child strikes a chord for me. I would ride my bike 3-4 miles every week to get books from the library and take as many out as they would allow. But I didn’t start writing until I was an adult. I enjoyed reading this.


  3. A fascinating literary history. When I was about 7, Miss Downs said we should read 3 books a week. I did. I always had a wish to write a diary, but waited until my 70th year to start blogging.


  4. It’s really interesting the “origin” stories we ask of writers. People always wanted me to say I loathed practicing law and was so grateful to let my heart soar with writing, except I liked practicing law (until I didn’t. 🙂 ) I think you have a wonderful clutch of books to point to when you become famous for your very own, unicornish voice. If not, you can always share your photos–that’ll win them over. ❤


  5. Victoria A Eller says:

    Wonderfully written! I loved it! You didn’t include that you have read in different languages – quite an accomplishment. You are absolutely my favorite unicorn (Of course, you’re also my only unicorn but…)! My only other comment… you liked Kon-Tiki????? You wanted to travel on a raft??? I dont’ think rafts are really safe for unicorns!


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