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by Linda Sue Park

illustrated by Matt Phelan


School Library Journal:

/* Starred Review */ PreS-Gr 1 — In this charming story that celebrates friendship and inclusion, Xander wants to throw a party, but since he’s the zoo’s only panda, he invites all of the bears. Then Koala tells him that she’s a marsupial, not a bear. After much thoughtful bamboo-nibbling, Xander opens his party to all mammals. But Rhino won’t come without his bird, and then the reptiles request an invitation, and the little panda doesn’t know what to do. A new friend pitches in, and the party goes “from grand to even grander” as the whole zoo is invited. As a last surprise, a new panda, Zhu Zi, arrives to complete the celebration, “What a party! What a ball! Lots of new friends, tall and small!” The ink and watercolor illustrations add dashes of personality to the animals- the rhino scowls as his bird cheerfully waves from atop his horn- and touches of humor, as when Xander blends in with a crowd of penguins. The cartoonlike animals have wonderfully expressive faces, so even the wordless pages convey the panda’s feelings. The upbeat, mostly rhyming text provides a surprising amount of information about animal families and species without tripping up the pace. The author’s note gives information that expands on facts mentioned in the book , like the symbiotic relationship between the oxpecker and the rhino. Perfect for young animal lovers and a great read-aloud for storytime.—Marian McLeod, Darien Library, CT –Marian McLeod (Reviewed August 1, 2013) (School Library Journal, vol 59, issue 8, p86)


  • ALA Notable Children’s Books – Younger Readers Category: 2014
  • School Library Journal Best Picture Books: 2013


1st Grade, Animals, Friendship, Kindergarten, Pre-Kindergarten