cover image Xander’s Panda Party

Xander’s Panda Party

Linda Sue Park, illus. by Matt Phelan. Clarion, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-547-55865-3

Phelan (Around the World) takes Park’s jaunty story about a panda with a complicated social life and develops it still further. In ink-and-watercolor vignettes, he animates the many zoo creatures Xander considers inviting to his party, capturing their expressions and interactions with a few quick pen strokes. Xander begins with his bear compatriots: Black Bear, Brown Bear, the Polar Bears, and Koala. “From her tree, Koala hollered,/ ‘Xander, I am not a bear.... Will I not be welcome there?’ ” Xander reconsiders: should he include all mammals? When he does, Rhinoceros complains that he can’t bring his bird. Should he include birds, too? Eventually, of course, Xander must invite everyone, and after the arrival of an unexpected mystery guest, the attendance list expands—providing Xander with a new friend. Park (The Third Gift) is really talking about the fluidity of boundaries, and how social groupings that look solid fall apart under closer inspection. Her afterword explores symbiosis (the rhino-bird duo), taxonomic classification, and zoo exchanges—there’s food for thought throughout. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Sept.)