An imaginative story about an overalls-clad panda who leaves his apple orchard for the city during a drought. Sam doesn't know about the malfunctioning of the rain machine, a curious contraption presided over by Thunder Dragon and his pal Lightning; or that Dragon, on Earth in hopes of setting things right, got trapped in Sam's jacket while Sam was mending it. When Sam notices his needle and pulls it out, Dragon escapes to become a popular success in the city; and when Lightning, a gentle cloudlike figure who has been lurking in the borders, finally shows up with the machine, Sam (now working as a fix-it panda) repairs it by removing ""an eternity of gunk."" The didacticism of this environmental fable is muted by the freewheeling extravagance with which Conover adopts images from a variety of cultures, especially Chinese (dragon, panda, the hills around Sam's orchard) and American (rural architecture and a city much like New York). The tale is briskly told in a humorously colloquial style, but beat are the precise illustrations, uniting the fantastical blend in a curiously appealing world peopled with beguiling animals in a myriad of human activities. The balance between bright-colored close-ups of the action on each spread and the broad, gray-brown scenes on which they are superimposed is especially effective; in the last spread, the two become one, while the tender green surrounding Sam and his new family is a reminder of life's fragility. An ambitious book--a little contrived, but with a lot to enjoy and discover. Endpaper game.