Amanda Panda starts off an unlikable kindergartner, but school (and exposure to other kids) teaches her how to be a friend, and that might be the most important lesson of all.
Amanda Panda (not the Amanda Panda of Sarah Dillard’s First Day at Zoo School) knows who she is, what she likes, and what she’s good at, and she has big plans for kindergarten. Those plans don’t include the girl panda in head-to-toe pink at the bus stop, though Bitsy does her best to be Amanda’s friend. While Amanda knows that she should return Bitsy’s compliment, she doesn’t. And when Bitsy sits at the table next to Amanda, “It is the end of the world.” Indeed, the day is rough, and Amanda can’t do anything quite right. So, at the end of a disastrous recess, she stealthily joins her older brother’s second-grade line and quits kindergarten. But the chairs are too big, and she can’t read the words. Just then a lost and afraid Bitsy appears to find her new friend. Amanda’s empathy finally manifests, and she leads Bitsy by the hand to kindergarten, where suddenly everything seems brighter and Bitsy is a friend. Amanda’s transformation is a bit sudden and extreme, and instead of combining their interests, Grove shows Amanda playing with Bitsy’s toys. Still, Grove’s watercolors masterfully portray Amanda’s every emotion, even the nasty ones.
Empathy and kindness are just as important as ABCs and 123s, and Amanda gives readers a good lesson. (Picture book. 4-8)