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"Oh, Panda" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider

Everyone loves pandas, the roly-poly black and white bears with the dreamy, come-hither eyes. Little ones are sure to enjoy meeting a curious, adventurous one with a passion for butterflies in “Oh, Panda” a sweet story with sumptuous art, written and illustrated by Cindy Derby, a Caldecott Honor Winner.

On a wintery landscape, the sky awash in soft, pastel hues we meet our buddy, sitting alone, near a pine tree laden with snow.

“Good morning, Panda. What are we going to do today,” the narrator asks, offering a suggestion: “Should we build an ice castle? With tiny circle windows that look out over the land?

With that a gorgeous castle fit for a princess materializes in the air, as if by magic.

Panda doesn’t have time to consider this idea because a distraction appears, a lovely pink butterfly, and the chase is on, the butterfly always a step beyond the panda’s reach, as it flutters and swirls, leaving a trail of color in its wake.

Miracle of miracles, the butterfly suddenly lands on panda’s paw, leaving the bear transfixed with wonder. Too soon the butterfly takes off, heading straight up a steep hill leaving the panda at the bottom, crestfallen, knowing the challenge is too much for him. The panda tries and tries again to gain footing to make it up the mount, but its efforts are for naught, the snow is too slippery--down, down the panda tumbles.

“I understand you want to climb that hill,” the narrator says. “But you’re still a bit too small. Let’s have a snack.”

That opinion isn’t what panda wants to hear, but instead of getting hot under the ears, the panda uses sap to try and glue its paws to the snowy surface. The panda fails and fails again as it uses its ingenuity to achieve the prize, the illusive butterfly, the panda’s heart’s desire, a beauty residing at an unreachable height. Eventually the panda succeeds because the good-hearted narrator steps in to assist.

“Oh, Panda” is a whimsical picture book to digest slowly, the illustrations stunning, culminating in a final spread that’s so worth the panda’s climb. The book’s theme of determination, in the face of insurmountable odds and keeping our eye on the prize, is meaningful, to readers of all ages.

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