Heart-Shaped Hoof Prints: A Lauren DeStefano and Gaia Cornwall Book Review


Lauren DeStefano knew she wanted to write a story about big feelings and how to manage them. Growing up, and even as an adult now, her imagination has helped turn scary moments into less intimidating ones. With that in mind, the story of The Unicorn Came to Dinner was born.

The Unicorn Came to Dinner is the story of no ordinary unicorn: the unicorn smells wonderful, but isn’t very respectful. Heart-shaped hoof prints and a trail of glitter are made across the carpet, food is knocked off the counter and the only word spoken is “neigh”. When Elizabeth’s parents ask the unicorn if it knows where their daughter went, they find out the unicorn ate her.

The unicorn does Elizabeth’s homework, takes a bubble bath in Elizabeth’s tub, dries off with Elizabeth’s favorite towel and puts on Elizabeth’s pajamas for the fourth time this week before the reader finds out that the unicorn is how Elizabeth hides her anxiety about school.

“I wanted to write a story that shows everyone it’s okay to find a creative way to cope,” DeStefano said. “Once I figured this out, the story happened pretty quickly.”

After DeStefano had written the story, she turned it into her publisher, who ultimately found illustrator Gaia Cornwall.

“I was immediately drawn to this story and thought depicting anxiety as a huge, obnoxious unicorn was brilliant,” Cornwall said. “I could instantly picture the spread of the unicorn - complete with butter on her horn - in between the parents at the dinner table.”

DeStefano saw a few sketches early in the process, but got a full look at it when it was nearly complete. While that is fairly normal in traditional publishing, it was still a nerve wracking process for Cornwall. She hoped that DeStefano would connect to where she was taking the story visually. When she saw the finished product, DeStefano was pleased at how her writing was brought to life by Cornwall’s talent and vision.

Both of them hope that this book helps start conversations about feelings and that finding creative ways to cope with big changes and events is perfectly normal.

“Hearing from parents and guardians who say this book has become their child’s favorite, or that it helped them, is the greatest thing I can ever hear, as a writer,” DeStefano said.

“A friend of mine recently told me her daughter wants to read this book at bedtime, especially after a hard day at school,” Cornwall added. “Obviously, I don’t wish hard school days on anyone, but hearing our book is helping to get a kiddo through that really just means the world. It's so rewarding to find out our book is providing some support for families and kids.”

The Unicorn Came to Dinner shows children that worries and anxieties are feelings that they will deal with for the rest of their lives, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Between Lauren DeStefano’s poetic words and Gaia Cornwall’s dazzling illustrations, this book is a wonderful way to show children how to be themselves.