LAYLA, THE LAST BLACK UNICORN

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Layla is a curious, free-spirited black unicorn with a coily mane and tail who loves spending summertime exploring Overlook Woods. When it is time for Layla to start going to school, though, she worries that she isn’t ready. Her guardian, Trevin Troll, assures her, “She ready.” At Unicornia, Layla’s attempt to join the other unicorns’ game is unsuccessful, and they call her “woodsy.” Layla tries dressing up with hair clips and sparkles, but this only makes things worse. Finally, when the class takes a field trip into the woods and the teacher has a mishap, Layla’s know-how and friendships with other forest dwellers get her frightened classmates back to school safely. Her friend Melvin Minoatur assures them that there’s no need to be afraid of the dark; when he met Layla, he learned “when something’s black, it’s really just where all the colors meet.” Readers will feel for Layla. While her problem fitting in at school is far from original, the details of her world make this a fresh take, a fun way to explore aspects of identity and culture (Layla feels like a stand-in for the Black actress/comedian, who often calls herself “the Last Black Unicorn”) or just to enjoy at surface level. The colorful, cartoon-style illustrations show refreshing diversity in the world of fantastical beings, and the striking black unicorn will do wonders for cultural perceptions of beauty. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

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