Xander’s Panda Party (Linda Sue Park)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Xander’s Panda Party, written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Matt Phelan, a positively delightful story of a friendly panda’s party-planning woes.

Xander the panda has come up with a fantastic idea: a panda party! Only one problem, of course: Xander is the only panda at the zoo. So Xander decides to open up the party to all the bears, and sends invitations to his fellow ursines, but is surprised to find out from Koala that he is not a real bear but a marsupial. Not wanting Koala to be left out, Xander opts to invite all the mammals – but Rhino doesn’t want to go without his BFF bird. So a furred-and-feathered party it will be! Well, until Crocodile points out that reptiles and birds are distant relatives, so could the scaly zoo denizens come as well? With a little help from a salamander named Amanda and a new surprise friend, Xander finds out that the best parties are the ones where no one is excluded based on who or what they are.

Fantastic! This was such a treat. From the phenomenal, jaunty rhyming text to the adorable illustrations of zoo creatures big and small, this was a blast for us. The added bonus is the subtle lesson about inclusiveness, showing that categorizing people can often narrow our experiences and possibilities for friends and fun. The length was great, JJ went wild for the animals, and it was just wonderfully fresh and different story that was a joy to read aloud. A lovely story for party animals of any age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Please, Mr. Panda (Steve Antony)

Hello, friends! If JJ seems a little more rosy-cheeked than usual, it’s because she woke up with a cold! Poor baby. Still, we were able to get our reading in today: we read Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony, a short and sweet tale about the importance of the magic word.

Mr. Panda has some doughnuts. He grumpily offers the doughnuts to several animals, but when they rudely demand one doughnut or the other, Mr. Panda finds he has changed his mind and rescinds his offer. Finally, a little lemur asks Mr. Panda if he may have a donut: “Please, Mr. Panda?” he asks. And wouldn’t you know, Panda gives him all the doughnuts – he just wanted someone to say please.

This was a funny little book. It’s rather short, which actually makes is great for baby bookworms and young readers. Plus, the lesson is a classic one: having good manners is important, and can have wonderful rewards. The illustrations are simple and cute, and overall, JJ liked it a lot – especially grumpy old Mr. Panda. So this one is Baby Bookworm approved!

Zen Shorts (Jon J Muth)

Summer Reading Day 72: Our book today was Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, a book about a panda named Stillwater who uses the lessons of zen stories to help his young neighbor friends. 

If you’ve never read any of the Stillwater stories, it might seem like a strange concept, but these books are absolutely wonderful. Stillwater uses ancient zen thought experiments (shorts) to show concepts such as forgiveness, kindness and optimism, while Stillwater himself celebrates friendship and generosity. The lessons he teaches are great for young and older minds alike, and the way Muth packages it, with gentle dialogue and sweet, muted illustrations, ensures that the stories are fun to read aloud and listen to. 

That being said, these books are a little lengthy for babies JJ’s age, and even a baby bookworm like her was starting to get antsy. Still, older bookworms will love these stories and the lessons they impart. Baby Bookworm approved!