Queen Panda has been awake for days, and her exhausted subjects are desperate to find a way to make their grouchy monarch fall asleep.
Since she is unable to fall asleep, Queen Panda insists that her servants stay awake as well: The tailors sew by moonlight, the cook prepares rice cakes 24/7, and the butler keeps cleaning all night long. Exhausted, the royal adviser pens a decree, promising “a bag of Chinese pearls” to whomever can lull the queen into slumber. Visitors arrive from around the world, and each of them tries a different trick: A Mongolian shepherd suggests that the queen count his sheep, a Bengali storyteller tells her “the world’s most boring story,” a Parisian diva sings her a lullaby…but nothing seems to work. Will the queen ever fall asleep? The tone of Isern’s narrative is reminiscent of a folktale, especially the value-based ending (after a day of honest work, the queen falls asleep easily). Ruiz Johnson’s rich illustrations are populated with anthropomorphic animals and display a Chinese influence, particularly in the clothes the characters wear, Queen Panda’s palace, and depictions of flowers and the bamboo in the background. Text and illustrations work together seamlessly, resulting in subtle humor and wordplay that do not escape readers—the Mongolian shepherd, for instance, is a wolf, and the Bengali storyteller is a tiger.
A charming, sensible tale for audiences young and old. (Picture book. 4-8)