There seems to be a trend these days towards slightly edgy picture books and I approve! So do many of my colleagues. The best example is probably I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, which was a smash hit a few years back and remains a favourite with just about every children’s library person I know.
Please, Mr. Panda is another such title. Released January 2015, it was immediately put into our storytime cupboard at work. We also had to order an additional copy for the public. It’s deceptively simple. The illustrations are large and mostly black and white, the only colour comes from Mr. Panda’s box of doughnuts, which makes it visually interesting and makes you really want a doughnut. (It actually took me about 3 readings to realize this, that all of the animals were black and white creatures!) Mr. Panda is adorably grumpy and he’s not about to give his pastries away to any animals who aren’t polite. Every animal who doesn’t ask nicely is told “No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind.”
I’ve read this book for at least four storytimes and the kids always guess right away that the animals are denied doughnuts because they’re not saying please. When a cheerful lemur finally does use the magic word, he gets the whole box and we learn that Mr. Panda isn’t quite as altruistic as he seemed. The ending, like the disappearance of the rabbit in I Want My Hat Back, is usually only really gotten by the adults and older kids, but younger ones definitely enjoy knowing that the animals should say please. And the artwork is terrific, particularly the crying orca whale.
This book won’t be for everyone – I’ve seen some bad Amazon reviews because Mr. Panda himself isn’t overly polite while teaching manners – but for families with a quirky sense of humour who don’t take things too seriously, it’s a hoot.
Reviewed by The Library Fairy
(review copy borrowed from the library).