Two friends help a giant panda challenge Chinese zodiac animals for a spot on the calendar in this latest picture book in a series.
Dinosaurs Gusto and Gecko are best friends who have a time machine. Their random destination: China, where they meet a giant panda who tells them of an upcoming contest featuring the 12 creatures of the Chinese zodiac and newcomers who want to take their spots. Panda decides to try after encouragement from Gusto and Gecko. The challenge takes them around China, where they compete by making Shanghai dumplings and performing Chinese opera, among other things. The final task: climbing a tower to light up the ice sculpture park in Harbin. No single animal can do it, but Panda decides they should cooperate. In the end, Panda gets a prize for “exceptional courage, friendship, and teamwork.” Han (Gusto & Gecko Travel to New Orleans, 2016, etc.) encourages cooperation in a way that’s fun but never preachy, and children may also learn about Chinese culture at the same time. The cast is sweet and amusing and shows real character; although Panda is no warrior, he still bravely protects everyone. Returning artist Hägg’s double-page illustration of a lighthouse is printed on coated paper that sparkles, and the effect is magic.
An absolutely wonderful fantasy tale.