Review by Amanda Smith
Often, in order to help preschoolers make sense of their world, adults organize things into perfectly logical groups. As children grow and learn, they discover the lines between these groups are blurred, and sometimes well-defined groups become barriers. Xander Panda learns a similar lesson when he wants to throw a bear affair, but discovers his friend, Koala, is not a bear. XANDER'S PANDA PARTY (Clarion Books; 2013) is a fun rhyming picture book about inclusivity and what happens when we expand our borders.
Written by Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Matt Phelan, XANDER'S PANDA PARTY is an attention grabbing read-aloud pleasure. The text dances off the tongue with a happy rhythm and playful rhyme. Flawless, whimsical internal and end rhyme make this book titillating to read, and provide enough silly-factor to satisfy young readers (and listeners).
The humorous, ink and watercolor illustrations further enhance the read. Each animal is illustrated with considered character: Show-off black bear, shy grizzly, an adorable polar bear pair, a cuddly baby penguin, a tower of turtles that will melt your heart, and of course, Xander himself with bucket loads of personality. Young readers will take pleasure at each page turn when they are introduced to new animals, and Xander’s growing party conundrum.
Xander’s Panda Party is a perfect choice for story time and is definitely one of those books adults won’t mind to read again, and again, and one more time please.
Linda Sue Park’s rhyme is exquisite! XANDER'S PANDA PARTY is a great example of rhyme that flows naturally and is in no way forced to tell the story. The story is paramount, and because the text is not set like a traditional rhyming text with lines and stanzas, sentences flow easily. The lyrical elements surprise a reader at first read and continues to delight throughout the reading experience. As a mentor text the biggest take away here is the fabulous internal rhyme that is in no way predictable, but smart and subtle.
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