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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Xander's Panda Party, written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2013. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"Koala is a little dozy,
likes her tree
all leafy-cozy.
I will ask her anyway.
Surely she will want to

It starts as a little celebration. Xander wants to have a party for pandas, until he realizes he is the only panda in the zoo. Not much of a party, is it? It is time to rethink the criteria. So, Xander plans a 'bear affair'. The planning takes time and much thought. The menu is designed to accommodate the taste buds of all guests and includes:


Eucalyptus leaves

You might want to guess who eats what. Nothing is left out. He hands out his invitations, and is promptly stopped in his tracks:

"From her tree, Koala hollered, "Xander, I am not a bear."
Xander didn't understand her. "Koala Bear, you're not a
bear?" He stared at her in consternation.
"Sorry for the complication. I know I'm called Koala Bear,
but I am not a bear, I swear. I am a marsupial. Marsupials -
we're rather rare. Will I not be welcome there?"

I love the lilt of the language! Matt Phelan's accompanying ink and watercolor art bursts with expression and changing mood on every page. The loose lines and many added details (Xander shaking hands with the tiny orange Amanda Salamander) give each of the animals depicted a singular personality. I have too many favorites to mention, and you are sure to find your own!

Deep thinking keeps cropping up as Xander is faced with one complication after another, while trying to be sure that no zoo denizen is left out. The rhino throws in a little wrench, and Xander must think yet again. Lucky there is bamboo to chew and a pacing place! He amends his plan and thus, his invitation:
"Calling all mammals and birds:
A celebration invitation _
Food and fun and jubilation!"

Thankfully that will be the end of the stumbling blocks, or will it? In fact, the story ends perfectly! Oh, please get this book to share with your kids at home and at school. They will love it, and want to hear it repeatedly. You won't mind!


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