Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Panda-monium! Book Review

Having listened to The Lady and the Panda by Vicki Croke, I've become an admirer of Mrs. Ruth Harkness for her bravey, persistance, and dedication in bringing the first live panda to the United States in the '30s.  With surprise and delight I cracked open the children's version of her story, Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter.  It is an enjoyable 2nd grade and up read aloud and does a good job of summarizing Harkness's journey to China.  

Dress designer Ruth Harkness took over her husband's expedition after he died in China.  All her friends thought she was crazy to even fathom the trek to find a panda.  But, Ruth was determined to finish what her husband started.  She packed up and sailed to China.  She met more friends that told her she should just turn back.  But, there was one person who said he would help her, a young Chinese man named Quentin Young.

Packed with all their 22 pieces of luggage, they set off with their crew through the mountains of China.  They searched and searched, only finding traces of panda habitation, yet no live panda.  Then one day they hear a small moan from a tree--it's a baby panda!  Ruth takes the panda, Su Lin, back to the United States, where he enjoys a home at Brookfield Zoo.  This allowed the whole world to know of the giant panda.

The illustrations by Caldecott honor-winner Melissa Sweet add an extra depth to the story.  She uses materials from a trip to China she went on to illustrate this work.  There is also a couple of photographs of Harkness and Su Lin.
Random House offers a teacher's guide via this link.

Cover image from

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