In the fourth book of the series, Ellie the elephant observes the new critter at the zoo—Ping, the painting panda.
Not to be confused with pandas of the kung fu sort, Ping brings a friendly black-and-white brightness to the zoo. Her image is full of contradictions that make her unusual to the group of zoo animals. Sharp eyes belie her soft roundness while her wide girth gives way to tiny hands that create graceful and interesting brushwork. She is definitely not a local, and Ellie and her friends cannot understand her language. Ping must pick up her bamboo brush and paint her words (characters that readers of Chinese will readily recognize). While the animals marvel at Ping’s artwork, Ellie begins to feel overshadowed, as the calligraphy is so different from her multicolored paintings. When Ping reaches out to offer Ellie a bamboo brush, the elephant awkwardly declines. “Maybe my paintings aren’t that special,” she whispers to herself. Indeed, the inclusion of Ping’s pictures adds contrast and stylistic interest to Wu’s ebullient watercolors. The gorilla named Gerard once again dispenses wisdom to the sweet elephant, encouraging her to learn more about Ping and her art. Can sharing art be a bridge between two different cultures? By the end, Ping and Ellie seem to think so.
Thumbs up for an easy tale of overcoming difference through art and curiosity. (Picture book. 3-7)