In 1972 the Chinese government gifted the people of the United States with two giant pandas. Prendergast imagines what might have happened to the pandas on their way to Washington, D.C., had the delivery not gone smoothly.
Ten-year-old Journey Wind Song lives in the Eastside, a neighborhood of Vancouver some consider a slum. To Journey, this is her community, and these are her friends. And as the book progresses, readers meet them all: the 15-year-old prostitute; the alcoholic living on the street; Nancy, her best friend; Miss Bickerstaff, the teacher whose brother has just died in Vietnam; Ben Wallace, a black American living in Canada to avoid the draft; Mr. Huang, the store owner from Taiwan; and many other beautifully portrayed characters, all seen compassionately but realistically through Journey’s eyes. And Journey? Her mom has red hair, pale skin, and freckles, while Journey has black hair that must have come from her dad, but Mom never talks about it. And then it all happens at the same time. The pandas on their way to Washington are stuck in diplomatic limbo in a warehouse in Vancouver, and the Cuban father she has never known shows up. What ensues is a community coming together to protect the pandas, inspired by a young girl’s single-minded earnestness and determination.
A book to inspire readers to be the change they want to see in the world. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)