PANDA'S PUZZLE by Michael Foreman


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Panda's self-conscious quest is self-consciously handled in Foreman's latest message-heavy, picture-pretty artifact. Happy in his forest innocence, Panda suffers an identity crisis when he sees his reflection in the lid, and two bears (one black, one white) on the label, of an empty can ""left behind by untidy travelers."" ""Am I a white bear with black bits or a black bear with white bits?"" then becomes Panda's consuming problem, and in his search for the answer he meets various people and animals, each of whom has his own guiding adage. (The Hippest: ""'It's all a matter of background,' said the chameleon."") In the end Panda realizes that he too must make his own definition--""l'm a traveler who plays tunes."" And as for whether he's black or white, ""I don't care!"" But, in contrast to the existential conclusion, essence clearly precedes existence in Foreman's abstract presentation, where every encounter is set up to make a point: for example, a lizard positions himself to look down on the proud cockerel, who doesn't mind because the tower cock looks down on the lizard; this prompts Panda to muse that ""There must be more to life than how high up you are""--a line, incidentally, which recalls the more provocative refrain of Sendak's Jennie, just as the tin can image dimly reflects Hoban's ""last visible dog."" So much for striking out on your own.

Pub Date: March 27th, 1978
Publisher: Bradbury