LAYLA, THE LAST BLACK UNICORN

In Haddish’s picture-book debut, co-written by Nolen, a unicorn has a rough start trying to fit in at school.

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.)

A winner on many levels. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311387-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more