Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns #6: Who Turned Off the Colours? – Matthew K. Manning

Illustrations – Joey Ellis

So, here we are at the end of this series. After my initial delight at the strange concept and the fun I had visiting a couple of other dimensions, I’m finishing the series disappointed.

Xander has somehow caught the virus that made his unicorn friends zombies. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long for this to happen or why it happens at the same time to all of the people who have interacted with the unicorns, regardless of when they watched the magic show.

Xander and the other humans have different symptoms to the unicorns. Instead of vomiting rainbows, they lose all of their colours. Even their clothing turns grey. It’s up to Xander, Cradie, Blep and Ronk to figure out a way to restore colour to the humans.

I had a whole bunch of questions throughout the series that I was looking forward to having answered when I made it to the final book. I didn’t get a single question answered.

The lack of attention to detail in the series really bugs me now. It was always something I noticed but it began to impact on my enjoyment of the series in book five.

This time around the main problem I had related to the central plot. So, Xander has lost his colours.

In fact, his skin was grey, his hair was a darker grey. Even his clothing was grey!

Two pages later …

He was wearing a bright purple onesie, but he was too worried to be embarrassed.

Seven pages after that …


Xander’s onesie is purple, his bunny slippers (which are certainly cute) are pink and the inside of his mouth isn’t grey either! Kids notice inconsistencies like these. It makes me wonder if the publisher lost interest in this series as it progressed.

Until book five, whenever Ronk said, “Ronk!” the word was always green and in a different font; in the final two books it’s blue for some reason. Cradie and Blep have also previously had colours specific to them when they vomit rainbows. These are also blue in this book. Later in the book there are places where the text is entirely normal. I would have thought this was clever if it related to Xander but the unicorns didn’t lose their colours in this book.

At the end of this book there’s a glossary, barf words (these have been the same in each book), jokes and a character spotlight where you learn more about Xander.

Up next: Start figuring out next year’s 🦄 Unicorn Day! 🦄 read/s.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Rainbow-Barfing Unicorn virus hasn’t infected humans … until now! In this adventure, twelve-year-old Xander contracts the mysterious virus of the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns. The virus gives the unicorns their barfing abilities, but it’s having the opposite effect on Xander – it’s draining him of any colour at all! Xander’s fate lies in the hands – er, hooves – of Ronk, the most dimwitted of all Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns. This is not good. In fact, this is bad – really, really bad.

Plump-full of grotesquely delightful characters and fantastical realms, Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns is so epic it’ll make you wanna puke.

Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns #5: Fairies Hate Ponies – Matthew K. Manning

Illustrations – Joey Ellis

I love visiting the other dimensions and the flashbacks of the unicorns’ time before they became zombies so this book felt a bit tedious in comparison. Most of the time we’re either hanging out at the Montgomery Orchard or the landfill next door.

There are some new characters in this book, several thousand of them in fact. Insect fairies from Pegasia are sick of all of the sweetness and adorability of their home so they hitch a ride through a portal to see what Earth has to offer. They like what they see and decide to stay, but this doesn’t bode well for Cradie, Blep and Ronk; if humans discover these magical creatures they’re sure to be locked up and experimented on.

I thought insect fairies would be interesting characters but I found them annoying. We only really get to know Willibop, who’s pretty cantankerous. Because this book basically felt like an exercise in pest control, my mind started to wander.

I keep wondering what Xander’s parents know about the unicorns. Their son is the person who introduces the unicorns during the weekend shows and given how popular the shows are supposed to be, have these parents seen the show? Asked Xander where he got the ‘ponies’?


After searching for Stalor in another dimension, the unicorns seem to have forgotten all about him. I’m not sure if he even survived the events in The Search for Stalor.

Then I thought about the zombie virus the unicorns were infected with. Is there a cure they could be looking for? Is there going to be any information about the origin of the meteorite that brought the zombie disease to Pegasia?

Is Xander finally going to admit his crush to Kelly? Is Kelly going to finally figure out that there are unicorns in her aunt’s orchard? Is Kelly’s aunt going to figure it out? With only one book left in the series I’m really hoping for some answers to at least some of my questions.

Ronk has randomly been described as grey during the series, which makes me wonder if he was originally going to be that colour. Most of the time he’s described as green and is always pictured that colour. In previous books, whenever Ronk says, “Ronk!” the word was always green; in this book it’s blue for some reason.

At the end of this book there’s a glossary, barf words (these have been the same in each book), jokes and a character spotlight where you learn more about Willibop, the insect fairy.

Up next: Who Turned Off the Colours?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Xander discovers a new magical creature – millions of them, actually! In this adventure, a swarm of insects threatens the Montgomery Orchard and twelve-year-old Xander’s fruitful summer job. Luckily, the so-called bugs aren’t actually bugs. Unluckily, they’re miniature, unicorn-hating, insect fairies from the magical world of Pegasia!

If Xander and his team of Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns can’t rid the orchard of these no-good fairies, their secret will be blown quicker than a stomach-load of full-spectrum chunks. Plump-full of grotesquely delightful characters and fantastical realms, Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns is so epic it’ll make you wanna puke.

Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns #4: Return to Pegasia – Matthew K. Manning

Illustrations – Joey Ellis

🦄 9 April is Unicorn Day! 🦄

I need to live in visit Pegasia, this marvellous world that Willy Wonka would be proud to call home.

The clouds are candyfloss. The dirt is crushed chocolate cookies.

There’s a chocolate milk river (actually, that reminds me very much of Mr Wonka’s chocolate river).


The unicorns smell good enough to eat. Note to self: Don’t eat the unicorns!

We get to meet more unicorns in this book. My favourite new unicorn was Cradie’s best friend from Pegasia, Bubblegum Taffy! She’s pink and she’s adorable! I will never be accused of having her problems.

My mother had been worried I wasn’t eating enough sweets.

It’s taken until the fourth book but we finally got around to the topic of unicorn farts. It had to happen eventually. The first offender is Bubblegum Taffy and her farts smell like bubblegum! Naturally!

After hearing all about it for over a month, Xander finally gets to visit Pegasia for himself.

It’s a magical place of dreams and wonder!

The unicorns’ distrust of humans is again validated, although this book’s ‘villain’ is much lower on the diabolical scale than the previous one. We also discover how appropriate the unicorn world’s name is.

At the end of this book there’s a glossary, barf words (these have been the same in each book), jokes (I’ve stopped reading these now; I find them repetitive and groan worthy) and a character spotlight where you learn more about Cradie, with her broken leg and weird but cool uni-skull tattoo.

Up next: Fairies Hate Ponies

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Once banished for being zombie-like creatures, the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns return to their home of Pegasia. Twelve-year-old Xander travels along and discovers a world of sugary sweet, fruit-flavoured unicorns – which is a problem, since the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns are HUNGRY!

Plump-full of grotesquely delightful characters and fantastical realms, the adventures of Xander and his team of Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns are so epic they’ll make you want to puke.

Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns #3: Revenge of the One-Trick Pony – Matthew K. Manning

Illustrations – Joey Ellis

🦄 9 April is Unicorn Day! 🦄

After finding Stalor (briefly) in The Search for Stalor, Xander and the three original rainbow-barfing unicorns, Cradie, Blep and Ronk, are preparing for another performance at Montgomery Orchard. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to our villain and given their backstory.

Unicorns have always feared humans knowing of their existence. They’re certain that if they’re found out they will be imprisoned and experimented on. This book’s Big Bad proves that humans are not to be trusted. We can still trust Xander though; he’s a kid so he doesn’t count.

With their home world of Pegasia boasting such delicacies as candy floss clouds and a chocolate mousse lake, it seemed appropriate that two of the Big Bad’s henchmen were called Ben and Jerry.

I loved learning more about Pegasia and the history of the unicorns. I particularly appreciated the connection between the Big Bad and the mention of something in the first book that seemed irrelevant at the time.

I am really enjoying Joey Ellis’ illustrations. There are still some inconsistencies between the text and images in this book but I couldn’t be bothered explaining the differences. My favourite illustrations were heartwarming


and funny.


But as it turned out, even a rainbow looks gross when it’s barfed up.

As disgusting as it sounds, I want to know the consistency of this rainbow vomit and whether it magically disappears if you accidentally come into contact with it.

At the end of this book there’s a glossary, barf words (the same ones that were included in the first book), jokes (over half of these are recycled from previous books) and a character spotlight where you learn more about Blep, with his stumpy horn and underbite.

Up next: Return to Pegasia

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The secret of the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns is out and that makes Xander Stone sick! Twelve-year-old Xander is the only person on Earth who knows about the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns. Except, of course, for a rich and crazy billionaire who will stop at nothing to capture these zombielike, upchucking creatures and get even richer and crazier!

Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns #2: The Search for Stalor – Matthew K. Manning

Illustrations – Joey Ellis

Spoilers Ahead!

🦄 9 April is Unicorn Day! 🦄

It didn’t seem fair. You try to eat one unicorn’s delicious-smelling hoof, and they kick you out of your world completely.

In Magic Smells Awful we were introduced to 12 year old Xander, whose belief in magic is finally validated when he sees rainbows shooting across the sky. After following the rainbows to their source he discovers three unicorns.


Cradie, Blep and Ronk aren’t ordinary unicorns. They barf rainbows and have been banished from their home, Pegasia.

“Who did what in the where now?”

This trio weren’t the only ones banished that day. Stalor, the most handsome unicorn on Pegasia, also made his way through the portal but was separated from the rest of the unicorns before they reached Earth. At Cradie’s insistence, Xander and the unicorns set out to find Stalor. Just between you and I, Cradie has a bit of a crush on Mr Handsome.

Their search takes them through another portal, one that I was expecting would lead to Pegasia. Instead, they wind up in another world altogether – Shushyerbum (I’m pretty sure kids will love that name). Once there, Xander is separated from his friends and meets Tobias, a mouse-bear. Oops, sorry. Tobias is a Mear. That other term is offensive to Mears.

For another dimension, this world was suspiciously like Earth. And then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

From the first time he was mentioned I was suspicious of Stalor. I suspect he will grow on me eventually. Now that it’s been confirmed there are other dimensions out there I hope to have the opportunity to visit some more.

The differences between the details of the text and the illustrations I noticed in Magic Smells Awful remain here. I found a few new discrepancies in this book. When the unicorns are described as having reins on them Cradie is pictured without them. Xander is supposed to be wearing a special metal hat, yet he is wearing his usual cap when he and Tobias leap off a cliff and again when they’re inside a cave.

At the end of this book there’s a glossary, barf words (the same ones that were included in the first book), jokes and a character spotlight where you learn more about Stalor, with his receding hairline and perfect teeth.

Up next: Revenge of the One-Trick Pony

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Xander Stone must save the handsomest of all Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns! In this installment, the handsomest of all Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns, Stalor, is missing. (P.S. He’s not really that handsome.) Twelve-year-old Xander and his other stinky, zombielike, upchucking unicorns set out to find him. Their naively heroic quest leads them to another dimension ruled by a diabolically bizarre king. Can the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns save their relatively handsome friend, or will the plan throw up in their faces? 

Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns #1: Magic Smells Awful – Matthew K. Manning

Illustrations – Joey Ellis

Do you believe in magic?

Xander does. He’s been a magic hunter for most of his life. When he was younger his friend Kelly would go on magic hunts with him but no longer does. On the very day that he decides to give up on magic it blasts across the sky in all of its technicolor glory. He doesn’t see fairies, gnomes or a spirit.

Instead he witnesses three rainbows, but there’s no pot of gold at the end of these rainbows. What Xander discovers are three unicorns! But not just your garden variety type. These are zombie unicorns 🧟‍♀️🧟‍♂️🦄 and they barf rainbows 🤢🤮🌈🌈🌈!


Being zombies they also smell terrible and tend to be accompanied by flies. The unicorns have heard about human adults who no longer believe in magic and will experiment on them if discovered. Xander knows it’s up to him to protect these rainbow vomiters from harm, but how?

Matthew K. Manning has written one of the most entertaining books I’ve read this year. The writing engages the reader from the beginning with this amazing and absurd story (I say that with the utmost respect) that is so imaginative and funny. I wanted these rainbow-barfing unicorns to be real. I wanted to go watch them vomit rainbows into the sky for myself. I wanted to visit Pegasia to witness for myself this magical dimension.

Joey Ellis’ illustrations capture the comedy in this book perfectly! My favourite illustration today is of Xander bathed in a rainbow yet pretending he can’t see anything out of the ordinary. It accurately depicts the humour of a kid obviously caught in a lie, denying it regardless and refusing to make eye contact. I expect my favourite illustration will change each time I open the book though.

I spent the whole book thinking this would make an incredible series and I dreaded nearing the end because I needed more! More unicorns! More vomit! More fun! Then I made it to the very end and lo and behold, what do I see on the back cover? The covers for the next three books in the series! Yippee!!! They look like as much fun as this one and I can’t wait!

I will be buying this book as soon as it’s released (for myself) so I can reread it to my heart’s content and have already recommended it to my favourite librarian for an avid young reader who consistently checks out the same kid’s books I do. I need to read the rest of the series urgently!

Food I craved while reading this book: apple donuts, cotton candy and blueberry strudel.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone for introducing me to this new favourite.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reread 9 April 2020

From the ‘Why I Call Myself an Alleged Adult’ Files: When asked what I wanted for my birthday last year I requested a series of kid’s books about zombie unicorns that vomit rainbows. I’ve been holding off on bingeing them until now because …

🦄 9 April is Unicorn Day! 🦄

It’s been two years since I first discovered Xander and the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns and I’d forgotten how much fun they are to read about. This book is a great way to escape from reality for a while.

We’re introduced to Xander, a 12 year old outcast who still believes in magic, and three unicorns who have been banished from Pegasia, their home. Cradie, Blep and Ronk used to be ordinary, everyday unicorns but something happened on Pegasia that transformed them into smelly, rainbow-vomiting, zombie-like creatures.

“The thing is, we were normal unicorns, but then we got a space virus, and we had to walk through the Banish Desert, which is nowhere near as much fun as the Danish Dessert – but that’s another story entirely – and then we dropped through the Western Portal and ended up on this mountain and Ronk can’t stop vomiting rainbows and neither can we, if I’m being honest, and -“

During my second read I wondered how the unicorns were able to speak the same language as Xander. I also noticed the illustrations, which I love, don’t always line up with the descriptions in the text. For example, Ronk is supposed to have two yellow eyes, not one yellow and one white, and Cradie’s hooves are supposed to be greenish, not purple.

Following the story is a glossary, a list of barf words and jokes. This book’s character spotlight shines a light on Ronk – exposed spine, melting skin, hairy ooze and everything else that makes this unicorn unique.

I’m ready to find it out what happens next!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Xander Stone didn’t believe in unicorns – until one puked on him! In this adventure, twelve-year-old Xander first meets the Rainbow-Barfing Unicorns – stinky, zombielike, upchucking creatures from the magical world of Pegasia. They’ve been banished to Earth for, well, being stinky, zombielike, upchucking creatures. However, Earth presents them with a great danger: HUMANS. Luckily, the dashing, naively heroic Xander vows to protect them and their disgusting secret at all costs.

Squishy Taylor #1: Squishy Taylor and the Bonus Sisters – Ailsa Wild

Illustrations – Ben Wood

Spoilers Ahead!

I’ve already read the first six books in the Squishy Taylor series but when the opportunity arose to revisit where her story began I jumped at the chance. It’s been almost two years (wow, that’s flown!) since I first discovered Squishy in my local library and I wanted to know if she was still as adorable as I remembered. Of course she was!

I love Squishy. I love her bonus sisters (twins Jessie and Vee). I love her baby brother. I love her Mum, her Dad and her bonus Mum. I love all of the extra people you meet as you explore Squishy’s world, even the cranky, mean ones. Squishy is one of my favourite book kids. She’s one of those people that you say, “You’ve got spunk, kid!” to, even though you can’t remember the last time you called someone ‘kid’ and you’ve never told one they have ‘spunk’ before.

This series is aimed at kids from 9 to 14 years but I would have probably read this when I was around 7 or 8. In the series Squishy is an adorable, energetic 11 year old, with her bonus sisters five months older and a grade higher at school. I also personally feel they tend to act younger than 11 but it’s not like I have a lot of kids in my life to compare them with.

I expect this series and especially the first book would helpful for readers who are new to blended families. I appreciate that the situation Squishy finds herself in is realistic. While she Skypes her Mum each day, she misses seeing her face to face. She’s having trouble adjusting to the new family that’s been moulded together when her Dad remarried. She feels ganged up against by her twin stepsisters. I absolutely adore the idea of having bonus people in your life; for example, bonus sisters instead of stepsisters. The concept of bonus puts such a positive spin on a difficult situation and Squishy’s attitude realignment is a pivotal scene in the first book.

Squishy and her bonus sisters get into trouble. At times they’re manipulative and make downright dodgy decisions to do mean things to people, but they’re kids. They bounce off one another and come up with schemes they’d never dare to try to pull off alone. Overall they’re sisters with big hearts who want to help people and love to solve mysteries in their neighbourhood.

Baby siblings rarely get named in children’s books these days for some reason and this was the book that made me notice it. In this series, I’ve only ever known Baby as Baby (so far). Perhaps he’ll get a name at some point.

Throughout the series I’ve really loved Ben Wood’s illustrations. The pictures have a fun energy about them and Squishy’s personality in particular shines through. You get the sense he really enjoys bringing this family to life and unlike a lot of children’s books I’ve read recently, Ben’s illustrations work with the feel of the book and what’s happening in the pictures lines up with what’s happening in the story. A few months ago I wouldn’t have commented on something that seems so trivial but after the amount of images I’ve seen recently that appear to have little to do with the details mentioned in the story, this has become a new selling point for me.

Squishy asks the all important question when making a decision in this book: “Which is more fun?”. A lot of adults could learn something from her.

Naturally because I’ve just reread the first book in the series I’ll need to reread the others as well before I read books 7 and 8 for the first time. 😃 Thank you so much to NetGalley and Capstone for reminding me how much I love Squishy.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sita ‘Squishy’ Taylor is a cheeky, sneaky 11-year-old who lives with her dad and step-family in a very crowded apartment. Luckily for Squishy, their building is huge – and there’s always plenty of mysteries to investigate! Like …

Who’s that hiding in the basement?

Why does Squishy have to share everything with her new step-sisters?

Why is her next-door neighbour the crankiest man in the world?

Why are green jelly snakes the yummiest?