THE PANDA PROBLEM by Deborah Underwood


by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 4 - 8
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What if the main character took over the storytelling from the narrator?

The (presumably adult) narrator begins the story of a panda who has a “BIG problem,” but the panda protagonist (represented opposite the narration) loudly disagrees. Panda goes on to explain that they have no problems: Their view from atop the bamboo tree is great, there’s plenty to eat, and the day is sunny. When the narrator explains to the panda that they are the main character and that they need to overcome a problem, because “that’s how stories work,” the panda suggests that they become the problem instead! The panda then begins a series of activities to frustrate the narrator, ranging from the merely obnoxious (playing the banjo really badly) to downright outrageous (introducing a second, equally problematic panda into the story). This metafictive picture book’s success lies in the creation of two distinct voices, which makes the exchange of dialogue possible. The voices can be told apart by the difference in type: The narritorial text is set in formal black typeface that denotes a sense of authority, and the panda responds through hand-lettered speech bubbles. Master of meta Underwood’s (Here Comes the Easter Cat, 2014, etc.) witty narrative and Marks’ cute, colored-pencil illustrations come together to create a comical struggle for control between a narrator and their rebellious creation.

Highly entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2850-4
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2019


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