Tuesday, September 17, 2013

danyelle recommends Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park

Remember practicing tongue twisters as a kid--giggling as words with percussive consonants, gliding vowels, and rhythmic syllables twisted around in your mouth, and concentrating on making the sounds come out right?  Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park is that kind of fun.

Xander is planning a panda party, but he is the only panda at the zoo, so he changes his plans and invites all the bears.  But, when Koala points out that although she has been invited, she is not actually a bear, but a marsupial, Xander decides to invite all the mammals.  Soon other animals ask to be included and Xander worries that his party plans might fall through.  Fortunately, Amanda Salamander offers to help, and together, Xander and Amanda plan a party for all the animals at the zoo.  A truck that arrives just as the party is about to begin brings Xander a surprise that makes the party perfect.

Park's lively text trips along through a playground of sound with clever rhyme and liberal use of alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme.  Read these lines out loud:
"Xander planned a panda party."
"Xander didn't understand her."
"Xander's party preparations took great pains and perspiration."
"He wasn't sure what he should do.  He chewed a slew of new bamboo; he nibbled, gnawed, and thought things through."

My one quibble is that, according to the text, the name Zhu Zi is pronounced "like saying 'zoo' mixed up with 'shoe.'"  But Zhu Zi--Chinese for bamboo--is pronounced "jū dz" which doesn't sound, to my ear, like "zoo mixed up with shoe."

Matt Phelan's ink and watercolor illustrations complement the energetic story.  Expressive faces imbue the animals with personality, particularly those peeking above strong horizontal lines--Rhinoceros, Crocodile, and Xander when he is looking into the crate.  The colors remind me of a box of multi-hued green crayons I saw while shopping for school supplies this year.  While spots of  bright color contrast Xander's black and white, it is the gorgeous variations of green that caught my eye.  (Love, love, love the picture of Xander chewing bamboo!)

This celebration of sight and sound is like . . . a party.

Xander's Panda Party
by Linda Sue Park
illustrated by Matt Phelan
published by Clarion Books
September 2013
Recommended for ages 4 and up

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