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Mrs. Harkness and the Panda Hardcover – March 13, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Starred Review, Booklist, February 15, 2012:
“An engaging, graceful narrative…. Sweet’s Asian style watercolor landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful.”

Starred Review, School Library Journal, February 1, 2012:
“This little gem will be perfect for one-on-one sharing and for those second-grade biography assignments. It’s simply stunning.”

About the Author

ALICIA POTTER is also the author of Fritz Danced the Fandango, which won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award. When not creating tales inspired by her travels and her hometown by the sea, Alicia works as a freelance journalist and children's book reviewer.

MELISSA SWEET is the Caldecott Honor artist of A River of Words by Jen Bryant, The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies, and The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra, amongst many others. Her work has received numerous honors, and reviewers have described her unique mixed-media illustrations as "exuberant," "outstanding," and "a creative delight."
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 610L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375844481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375844485
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When you have read a lot of children's nonfiction as I have, you might start to think you've heard all the good stories. Then a book like Mrs. Harkness and the Panda arrives at your door and you happily learn there are many more stories to tell.

Ruth Harkness never expected to venture very far away from her comfortable home. But then her husband died and she felt a need to carry on his work, to find and bring a panda home to America.

The reader will love following Mrs. Harkness' difficult journey, beautifully illustrated with cartoon panels of conversations and actual photographs of Mrs. Harkness and her panda, maps of the journey and real postcards of old China.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Granddtr used this as a class presentation--she is 7--and of course, loves pandas, so she related to the theme. I liked it for her because the "heroine" was a woman overcoming obstacles--she learned about the history of the era and enjoyed sharing it with her classmates.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book. It reveals the true story behind America's first panda and the woman who brought the panda to us. In the early 1930's hardly anyone had ever seen a panda and some people didn't believe they actually existed. There was no internet or television for people to see that panda's exist like today. Mrs. Harkness' husband set off to China with the goal of bringing a live panda to the United States but he died and did not accomplish his goal. Mrs. Harkness decided that she would go herself and finish her husband's mission. She had to travel across the world, climb mountains, face hardships and ignore the doubts of many people telling her she was crazy. Against all odds Mrs. Harkness succeeded in bringing back a baby panda, Su Lin, whose name means "a little bit of something cute." As an adult reader I also see this story on a deeper level as well, that this woman found healing and closure by completing her husband's life goal. For children this is an encouraging story to follow you dreams with determination.
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Format: Hardcover
http://web.mnstate.edu/cmc/ComstockHonorBooks2013.cfm#MrsHarknessAndThePanda

"In 1934, Ruth Harkness had never seen a panda bear. Not many people in the world had." Thus begins the story of Mrs. Harkness, who had not intended to go looking for the beishung. After all, in 1934 women were considered "too dainty for exploring." But after Mr. Harkness passes away in China during his search for the panda, Mrs. Harkness is determined to take on the expedition. Despite the vocal naysayers, Mrs. Harkness packs, prepares, and heads to China. With the help of Quentin and Lao Tsang, a panda is found. Mrs. Harkness names the baby Su Lin and finds him a home in the Brookfield Zoo. The naysayers are quieted and Mrs. Harkness is recognized as a woman explorer.

The watercolor and mixed media illustrations bring a nostalgic feel to Mrs. Harkness's travels. According to Melissa Sweet's web page, much of the paper and collage materials used were obtained while she was in China.

Students from nine to eleven were drawn in by the phenomenal illustrations and the rich language of this story. A passion for research was ignited in some students sending them to the library to look for more information about both pandas and female explorers. The children loved the determination of Mrs. Harkness and commented on how she continued her quest despite the negative feedback from others. A "Chronology of Events," "Author's Note," and "Selected Bibliography" provide further information for readers wanting to know more about Su Lin and Mrs. Harkness.

From Boston, Alicia Potter is a long-time reviewer of children's books. Melissa Sweet, who currently resides in Rockport, Maine, has received a 2009 Caldecott Honor award and the 2012 Sibert Award.
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Format: Hardcover
Who can resist a picture book cover that displays an adorable panda? At first glance, Mrs. Harkness and the Panda written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Melissa Sweet appears to be a work of fiction. Upon closer examination, one quickly learns that Mrs. Harkness was an extraordinary woman who traveled to China with the intention of bringing a panda back to America.

Her daring travels are easily admired, especially since her excursion took place in the 1930s. After her husband's unexpected death, Mrs. Harkness decided to take over his Asian expedition. Naysayers condemned her efforts. I could easily relate to the comment, "You're out of your head." Far too many people openly told me that I was "crazy" to consider being a middle aged international teacher in a Third World country. Anyone who seeks an adventure will be intrigued by Mrs. Harkness's unusual story. I certainly was.

Alicia's descriptions and Melissa's illustrations enable the reader to feel part of the journey. Maps, lists of supplies, copies of newspaper headlines, photographs, and colorful illustrations enhance the telling of the story. At a time when few American women had notable roles outside their homes, Mrs. Harkness' tale adds another layer to American life during the Depression. Simultaneously, readers will get a glimpse of Chinese culture and question whether animals should be held in captivity. Sadly, the panda bear, Su Lin, died a couple years after it was brought to the United States. A Chronology of Events, an Author's Note and a selected biography provide additional information.
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