Queen Panda Can’t Sleep by Susanna Isern, illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (9781635920956)
When Queen Panda can’t sleep, none of her servants sleep either. After the Queen hasn’t slept for days, her servants send out a decree that anyone who can make the Queen fall asleep will win a bag of Chinese pearls. Many came to attempt to make the Queen sleep. She tried counting sleep from Mongolia, heard dull stories, listened to a lullaby from Paris. She swayed in a Kenyan hammock, was massaged with a branch from Australia, but nothing worked. Finally, someone came and yawned big, putting everyone else to sleep, except the Queen. With all of her servants fast asleep though, she had to cook her own meal and do other chores. Soon her eyes her drooping and she got sleepy!
This new twist on a traditional story where people are set a royal challenge has animals from around the world vying to put the Queen to sleep. With nods to a variety of cultures, the story is set in China with a very red-eyed panda as queen. The story sticks to the traditional format until the ending where the queen solves her own problem by getting busy and tired.
The illustrations have a folktale flatness to them that works well with the story. They have all sorts of animals in them from foxes to storks to cats and toads. The images use an interesting color palette of greens, oranges, and yellows.
A bedtime story that will hopefully have children snoring long before the Queen does. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin (9780763698225)
Released September 25, 2018.
The goblins and elves have found peace after a long war. Brangwain Spurge, an elf who studies goblin history, is catapulted into the goblin kingdom to deliver a gift to the strange being who rules the goblins. He is hosted there by Werfel, a goblin who studies elven history. Werfel is delighted to host Spurge, but that soon changes as Spurge is cantankerous, judgmental and hates everything goblin. He even detests an elven feast put on in his honor. Werfel also discovers that Brangwain is actually a spy, sending messages in images back to the elves. As the political intrigue grows, readers discover that Spurge is being used by his own government to start a new war, one that the elves will have the upper hand in thanks to duping him. But never doubt the ability of Spurge to ruin a solid plan!
What a pairing of master storytellers! Anderson writes the clever text, showing Werfel’s point of view and delighting in the slapstick comedy moments, the clashing of two cultures, and the dangers of hosting a guest. Meanwhile, Yelchin tells Spurge’s side of the tale through sly images alone, depicting what Spurge is sending back to the elves. The tales of course do not match and yet the also work together to tell a more complete story of misunderstandings, biases and prejudice more fully than words ever could.
The political pieces of the tale are particularly well drawn, showing how forces at work are not really in charge but may just be playground bullies who are being bullied themselves. The focus on differences and similarities is cleverly crafted into the story with the finale strengthening the connection and leaving no doubt that change is possible.
A timely look at political intrigue and getting beyond what holds us apart with plenty of humor to make it a delight. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Candlewick Press.