Wednesday 16 October 2013

Xander's Panda Party

Xander’s Panda Party written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Matt Phelan (University of Queensland Press)
HB RRP $19.95
ISBN 978-0-7022-4998-3
Reviewed by Jo Antareau

Park’s latest picture book ticks all the boxes! The writing is simply a joy to read aloud, exquisitely crafted with internal rhymes that flow within a rhythmical structure. The narrative at times consists of delightful tongue twisters (try saying “Amanda Salamander lent a hand to Xander Panda. Xander’s party plans went from grand to even grander!” out loud five times!). Great fun to listen to, but Park never allows the style to over-power the story. The situation remains clear and easily accessible to young listeners.

This beautiful picture book is immediately appealing with the cute roly-poly panda distributing a ribbon of colourful invitations on the cover.  Phelan’s water colour illustrations are simple and bursting with life, sometimes telling little anecdotes in themselves.

The story follows the dilemma of Xander Panda who, as the zoo’s only panda, has nobody to celebrate his birthday with. So he invites all the resident bears to a party, mistakenly including a koala on the guest list. After he understands a koala is not a bear at all, he stresses that other non-bear residents might feel left out. In order to not offend, he expands the guest list to all the mammals. Then finds he has to include all the birds, so that rhino might come with his bird. Then the reptiles, offended that they were left out, receive an invitation too. His party has grown into a mammoth event!

This is a lively story about inclusion and reaching out to others who might seem different to oneself. Xander’s Panda Party is a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf. Linda Sue Park is a Newbery award winning author of A Single Shard.

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