BAEK, Matthew J. Panda & Polar Bear. illus. by author. unpaged. CIP. Dial. 2009. RTE $16.99.
ISBN 978-0-8037-3359-6. LC 2008046231.
PreS-Gr 1–In a mysterious location, pandas live at the base of a tall cliff, while polar bears reside at the top, so they never meet. Then a curious polar bear cub falls off the edge into a mud puddle, giving him pandalike markings. He meets a “splotchy” cub and they enjoy playing together, until the polar bear’s muddy spots are washed off after a swim. The polar bear worries that the bear, which he learns is a panda, will not want to be friends now that their differences are known. To the contrary, the young panda is fascinated by the polar bear’s stories of snow and, as he describes his habitat, he grows homesick. Working together, the two build a ladder out of bamboo, allowing each to visit the other’s home, which readers learn on the last spread is in a zoo. The muted watercolors of spot art and spreads perfectly evoke the playful energy of the young animals in their respective environs. The lesson that we can get along despite our differences is presented in an age-appropriate and lighthearted manner in this simple and delightful tale.–Rachel G. Payne, Brooklyn Public Library, NY