Little Panda by Renata Liwska
Reviewed by Sheila Jones (Greenridge Chronicles)
Renata Liwska's Little Panda is the sort of book you should buy for your friend who has just had a baby. It's beautiful, it's charmingly illustrated, it involves a lovingly tender parent/child relationship, and it's the sort of book a besotted new parent will love to read over and over again to their little one. When my children were small I always looked for stories like these, illustrated with sparse pencil lines and muted colours, that convey a lot without being too busy or too dramatic.
The author has also illustrated the story, and it is perhaps these illustrations that I liked best, because the story itself, while very sweet, is also very short. But the illustrations are wonderful: Pandas playing; Pandas stripping bamboo leaves; Pandas climbing; Pandas sleeping; Pandas sitting in boats, even. These pandas aren't particularly realistic, but that is perhaps where most of their charm lies: they have elongated necks and backs, they sit up in boats, they wear little Chinese hats, they lean on their elbows, watching, and they smile at each other.
Grandfather Panda starts off, telling a story about a panda and a tiger that flies to his little grandson. Grandson scoffs at this, and Grandfather responds, with the sort of Every Parent remark I love:
"How do you know if you haven't heard the story yet?"
In what I thought was a clever twist, the book starts off in one type, the plain and very modern Avenir, as we are introduced to Grandfather and Grandson, but when Grandfather's story takes over, the type changes to Humanist, with all those calligraphy-like serifs that make it look like an old Chinese story. For the story IS an old one: How Little Panda learns to cope on his own (inadvertently), while Mother Panda is away foraging. Little Panda confronts danger, but emerges victorious, all by himself.
I won't give away the ending, except to say that it resonates in Grandson's present-day world in a way that will make you smile. Oh, and check out the author's website and blog if you'd like to see more of her artwork. It's fabulous.
- Reading level: Ages 4-8
- Hardcover: 32 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (October 27, 2008)
- ISBN-10: 0618966277
- ISBN-13: 978-0618966271
- Source: Review copy from publisher
- Author website: http://www.renataliwska.com
- Author blog: http://renataliwska.blogspot.com