Before coming across it while on a search of a unicorn book to review for Zombies vs. Unicorns week, I had never heard of A Little White Horse. I’m surprised by that now, because not only was it made into a TV mini-series in 1994 called Moonacre and a movie in 2008 called The Secret of Moonacre, but J.K. Rowling praises it as one of her favorite childhood books.I can easily understand why Rowling considers this a childhood favorite. If I had read it as a younger girl, I no doubt would have been head over heels in love with it. As it is, even though I thought it was charming, I also thought that a great deal of it was boring. It moved very slowly and there was never much action. There were a lot of positive things about it, however. The language is so lush and descriptive that it makes the story inviting. Everything down to the food is described in beautiful detail: in fact, if the book doesn’t make you hungry several times I will be surprised. When the book opens, the recently orphaned Maria Merryweather is traveling with her governess Miss Heliotrope to live with a relation she has never met at her ancestral home. Also on the journey with them is her dog Wiggins. Wiggins might actually be my favorite character. So much humor was infused into the descriptions of his thoughts and actions; you can’t help but become rather attached to him throughout the story. He is a very beautiful and self-centered dog, who only loves Maria because he knows it is in his best interests to do so (she is the source of food, you see).As Maria arrives at Moonacre manor and gets to know all the people that are now a part of her life, she realizes that she feels like she has finally come home. Unfortunately, she also discovers that there is a curse hanging over the Merryweathers as well as Moonacre, and as the book progresses, she learns more about the curse and how she can be the one to break it. With a whole lot of resolve and a smidgen of magic, Maria is able to save the manor, bring harmony to the valley, and right some love stories gone wrong (she also manages quite the happy ending for herself, of course).While an important part of the story, the unicorn is not meant to be a physical part of the story as much as a figurative one. The “little white horse” is more of a background figure threaded heavily in the legends surrounding Moonacre Manor. The book opens with a verse that ends:The raised hoof, the proud poised head, the flowing mane?The supreme moment of stillness before the flight, the moment offarewell, of wordless pleading for remembrance of things lost toearthly sight.Then the half-turn under the trees, a motion fluid as the movement oflight on water...Stay, oh stay in the forest, little white horse!He is lost and gone and now I do not know if it was a little whitehorse that I saw, or only a moonbeam astray in the silver night.So, even though the unicorn is far more symbolic than literal, he adds a lot of meaning to the narrative. Maria sees him as a source of hope and power. I think he also represents both the happier times before the curse and the resolution of the curse. Overall, this book definitely celebrates some of the awesomeness that is the unicorn, although I was a little disappointed that there was not a real unicorn frolicking through the fields with Maria throughout the book.