Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Xander is planning a party just for pandas, but soon realizes that he is the only panda at the zoo. So he changes the invitation to include all sorts of the bears at the zoo. Then Koala is left out because she’s a marsupial, not a bear. Xander chewed some bamboo and thought a bit, then changed the party to be for all mammals at the zoo. After going through several more versions, Xander’s party changed to invite all of the animals at the zoo. It was almost time for the party to start, when a truck and a crate arrived at the zoo. It was a new creature for the zoo! But would it ruin Xander’s updated party plans?
Clever, clever, clever. This book carefully offers information on animal taxonomy to readers who will not even realize they are learning it thanks to the party-theme of the book. Park’s writing is so impressive. When I opened the book to see it rhyme, I must admit that I sighed. But Park managed to created a rhyming book that is not written in stanzas. She instead builds whole paragraphs that read like rhyming poems and make the rhymes work throughout the sentences. It is a smart way to approach a book that harnesses the rhyme rather than galloping away with it.
Phelan’s art is entirely brilliant. His lines have a looseness that really works, creating whole settings in just a few lines. All of the animals have their own unique personalities. I particularly enjoyed the rhino glaring from behind his wall and the montage of the different types of bears. There are small touches throughout that add humor and coziness to the story.
A book that has science mixed with a message of inclusiveness, this is one has mass appeal. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.