Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland

Sujean Rim. Little, Brown, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-40744-1
When a panda family arrives on the shores of Bearland, the inhabitants are friendly but a little nonplussed. The pandas look so different: they’re black, white, and roly-poly, while everyone is Bearland is tall, lean, and monochromatic. “Mr. and Mrs. Loo felt so fortunate to be able to come and make a new home in Bearland,” writes Rim (the Birdie series). And indeed, Bearland’s inhabitants—portrayed as tidy, self-possessed, doll-like figures with an affinity for baseball caps and bandanas—seem like living proof that the good life is available to all. But the Loos’ son, Chee-Kee, is acutely aware of how his family stands out: they eat different foods, he doesn’t know what a skateboard is, and even his kite looks different. Rim, who based this fable on her parents’ experience immigrating to the U.S. from South Korea, makes Chee-Kee’s isolation touching and profound—so much so that her happy ending feels rushed and pat. But the book offers children a way to participate in ongoing public conversations about immigration and about what genuine inclusion asks of everyone involved. Ages 4–8. Agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/21/2016
Release date: 02/07/2017
Genre: Children's
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