The new girl in town worries about making friends at her new school, but a panda from the zoo next door eases her fears.
A letter from Florence’s new teacher asking her to stand up in front of the class and tell about herself has Florence writing a letter of her own—to the panda, who she hopes will be her new special friend. This clever strategy to gather material to talk about on the first day works like a charm. The two write back and forth before planning a play date and exploring all the things they like to do together: swimming, hiding and hula-hooping. And when Flo finally confesses her first-day fears to Panda, he has just the solution. This in turn sparks Florence’s friendship with the panda-loving Bea, who also loves to swim, hide and hula-hoop. Latimer’s sweet illustrations depict round-headed, pink-cheeked multiethnic children with spindly legs; Bea is differentiated from Flo by her panda button and her lower-fastened pigtails. The many letters stand out for their different typefaces; Panda’s is larger and slightly messier, as befits an animal with large paws and no opposable thumbs.
Latimer’s story flirts with fantasy, and while Flo’s solution won’t help children living in reality, maybe they can use her tale to recall something just as remarkable (though true) to share with their own classes. (Picture book. 4-7)