The roly-poly panda of Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep (2014) wakes up hungry.
Just like a toddler, Chengdu can do a lot of things “all by himself.” He can get down from his branch, jump, push and pull, climb, swing back and forth, even fly—almost. So he demonstrates in the soft-focus illustrations, though his efforts to get to the bamboo fronds that hang tantalizingly just out of reach are frustrated again and again. As in Chengdu’s first outing, Saltzberg uses artful page turns, gatefolds, and half pages to endow his grave-looking panda’s patient quest for breakfast with action and humor. Yes, Chengdu does a lot all by himself, but for some tasks, such as bending down a bamboo stalk, “there are times when Chengdu can… / use a little help.” Enter a pair of pandas, one of parental size, to lend a paw. With a narrative text that extends to just nine sentences, the book depends on the design to pace readers. Manipulating the various gatefolds slows them down to panda speed, resulting in a satisfying read-aloud.
A cozy declaration of independence—with a caveat that’s not just for toddlers. (Picture book. 2-5)