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  • Writer's pictureAngela Park

More Praise for Red Pandas Journey to Sikkim

Reviewed by Michaela Gordoni for Reader Views (03/2024) 5* – Friends Help Friends

In Celia Straus’s recent wonder book, “Red Pandas Journey to Sikkim,” contrary red panda siblings Mishti and Connor always play together, but extroverted Connor craves more friends. He wanders around until he meets a pangolin and a sarus crane. Connor and Mishti learn the joy of friendship as they dance under the moon and spend time together with their new companions. But then, smoke enters their beloved forest. Farmers are burning it down to make room for their crops. The quartet of friends can find ways to make it out of the forest and into Sikkim, a safe sanctuary, only by helping each other and making sacrifices.

The story shows why it’s important to help one another and not be self-seeking. The friends are supportive and understanding of each other’s differences. If the animals had not stuck together, they would have lost their way, and would not be safe—a message that children will understand. Author Celia Straus writes well and interestingly rhymes the story. Not in the basic way as many children’s books do by rhyming each line to the one before it. She does it in the slightly more complex, yet still aesthetically and audibly pleasing style by letting the rhyme skip over a line. For example, she writes:

Little Mishti practiced blending in. She was shy and played it safe. Brother Connor liked exploring. He was outgoing; restless; bold. He longed to meet more playmates in this cold thick forest place. “Pandas do not talk to strangers,” Mishti said, trying not to scold.

The soft illustrations in the book are equally captivating. Illustrator Xinting Guo uses a variety of artistic techniques, mixing detailed images with abstract ones. She is very skilled. She intentionally creates some of her art in a childlike style, while other components are more life-like. The result is altogether beautiful imagery. 

The poetic narrative and the thoughtful pictures are a perfect marriage. It’s enchanting for both adults and children.

This book could be particularly useful for introverted children, as it shows why having friends is joyful and important, not just for themselves, but for others in their time of need. Overall, this is an excellent picture book for preschool and elementary-age kids.

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