Friday, November 9, 2012

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  Melissa Sweet is also notably nominated for a CYBILS for her book, "Balloons Over Broadway" which won last year's Sibert Medal.  Once again, a story unknown to me (and extremely interesting) is always going to be a favorite.  The story of Ruth Harkness and her eventual and lengthy and painstaking search for a panda, the first to be brought to the US, is in one word...incredible.  Melissa Sweet's illustrations and use of authentic material and textures from China enhance an extraordinary story.  Something that struck me about the story is the timeline itself.  Not to give too much away, but Ruth Harkness married at the age of 34, which, in 1934, I would imagine would be considered sort of old to be getting married.  She also got married to a man she'd been friends with for ten years.  A lengthy courtship.  And then, a mere 23 DAYS later, her newly wed husband left for an expedition to China and...died.  What a tragic beginning.  Now, he died 2 years later, but he was gone all that time.  So, for all intents and purposes, they were together for 23 days after being married.  Now, this is a book written for an audience of children, but I am very interested to read more about Ruth and William's courtship and marriage.  But I would imagine that is a story (literally) for a different day.  Also, looking at the handy dandy timeline, or as Alicia Potter terms it "Chronology of Events," Ruch Harkness was able to accomplish in approximately 4 months what her husband was unable to do in 2 years.  Not an explorer.  Hah!  Ruth Harkness sure did prove a few folks wrong!  And her forethought to bring a bottle to feed a baby panda.  Smart!  Now, this story is perfect for a read aloud with students.  It's engaging, but not too long, not too heavy on information.  On the same token, if a student needs enough information on Ruth Harkness to, for example, write a report, this book will not provide enough depth.  With that said, I LOVE it.  I love the illustrations, I love the story.  I love it.  And it leaves me wanting more.  And I think it will do the same for you.  Enjoy!

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
ISBN: 978-0-375-84448-5
Published 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf
I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.
I plan to add this book to our school library collection.

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