Xander's Panda Party
by Park, Linda Sue; Phelan, Matt (ILT)

Xander's plan to host a panda party falls through, since he is the only panda at the zoo, but when he extends the invitation to all of the bears, complications ensue. Includes author's note on the wonders of the animal kingdom and the international effort to save pandas from extinction.

Linda Sue Park won the Newbery Medal for A Single Shard. She lives with her husband in Rochester, New York. Visit her website at www.lspark.com.

Illustrator Matt Phelan’s books include Alice Schertle’s Very Hairy Bear and Jeanne Birdsall’s Flora’s Very Windy Day. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Visit his website at www.mattphelan.com.

Xander the panda has a birthday coming up, and he wants to throw a "dandy whoop-de-do!" to mark the occasion. Problem: he is the only panda at the zoo, and one does not a party make. So he decides to invite Black Bear, Brown Bear, both the Polars, Grizzly, and Koala. But when Koala informs him that she is actually a marsupial, thank you very much, Xander expands the invite list to include all mammals. Of course then a bird wants in, then a gator-and soon everyone is invited. When a panda from China arrives to live at the zoo, well, she is just the icing on the birthday party cake. Newbery Medalist Park's playful rhyming text introduces young kids to different species of animals, further detailed in an author's note, which also discusses China's panda research centers and the fact that, until fairly recently, the black-and-white bears were on the verge of extinction. Phelan's loose watercolor illustrations brim with energy and perfectly capture each of Xander's sweet, varied facial expressions. Share this story about the importance of inclusion with birthday kids and those fond of a trip to the zoo. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

As a member of a rare species, Xander the Panda runs into some evolutionary conflicts when faced with the eternal quandary of whom to invite to his party. As pandas are thin on the ground, he decides to expand the guest list to bears. This plan is upset by a bear look-alike, Koala, who turns out to be a marsupial, not a bear. Even broadening the invitation to all mammals doesn't please everyone; Rhinoceros won't come without his bird, so Xander invites all the birds. Crocodile adds to Xander's stress by insisting that reptiles, being a prehistoric bird-related species, should be invited too. The solution to Xander's dilemma comes from tiny Amanda Salamander, who suggests inviting all creatures, which (surprise) includes humans too! The party is a roaring success, and a nice girl panda shows up at the right moment to keep Xander company. Phelan's pencil-and-watercolor vignettes are imaginative and charming, making the most of the story's humorous potential. Though a solid addition to the popular category of books about inclusiveness, the tale, like Xander's party, feels a little too-hastily put together. Children who chuckle at the sight of Xander lowering an invitation into the lion's zoo enclosure may find themselves wondering how prey animals will fare at Xander's shindig, for instance. Park includes a final note about pandas and species preservation. Unquestionably warmhearted, but its emphasis on zoological facts somewhat undermines its whimsy. (Picture book. 3-5) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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