Books for Younguns, Young Adults and the Young-at-Heart

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

In 1936, the first panda was brought to the U.S., not in a cage, but in the arms of Ruth Harkness.  After her husband died in China on a mission to bring back the elusive species, Mrs. Harkness took on the goal herself, and contrary to the doubts of others who thought a woman could never make the journey, introduced America to Su Lin.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, is my Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 book for March.

This is a story that will be new to most readers, and it is told here in simple terms.  The details included are of the type that will catch kids' imaginations (Harkness traded in her hiking boots for rope sandals and sometimes rode on a bier-like contraption) while skipping the minutia.  Focus is given to those who doubted a woman's ability to complete the panda-finding mission as well as Harkness's handily showing them all.  In an author's note, there is discussion of the fact that the practice of removing a baby panda from the wild would be frowned upon nowadays while acknowledging the positive impact it had at the time.  The illustrations mimic the feel of a travel journal, with lots of quick sketches and pressed objects accompanying the more detailed illustrations.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is publishing by Knopf Books for Young Readers and retails for $16.99 (hardcover).  I read my copy by picking it up from the shelves for a few minutes.  You can get yours at Left Bank Books today!

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