Xander planned a panda party. Yes, a dandy whoop-de-do!
But Xander was the only panda. Just one panda at the zoo.
What should Xander do?
After some contemplative bamboo chewing, Xander decides on throwing a “bear affair”, until Koala informs him that she’s actually not a bear – she’s a marsupial!, and Xander’s understanding of how we categorize the world is turned up-side-down. When all mammals are then invited, Rhinoceros says he won’t come without his bird: an oxpecker that eats the parasites off of him (a symbiotic relationship!). Birds are added to the list, but the crocodile says that long ago, birds and reptiles were related … so … The final invitation reads: “Total zoo participation!”
Linda Sue Park’s clever rhyming prose accompanied by Matt Phelan’s expressive ink and watercolor illustrations, playfully explores complex philosophical and scientific ideas.
In the author’s note, we learn that Xander’s grappling with taxonomy is apt: pandas’ taxonomic classification has been in debate for many years; while they were previously classified in the raccoon family, DNA and molecular analysis now show that they are more closely related to bears. Classical categorization, which first appeared in Plato, may be heady stuff for kids – or it may be just right for them. In the 1970’s Professor Matthew Lipman, who started the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University, said that children can think abstractly and that their intensely curious minds are ripe for philosophical questioning. “A lot of people try to make philosophy into an elitist discipline,” says Professor Thomas Wartenberg in The Examined Life, Age 8 (Abby Goodnough, New York Times). “But everyone is interested in basic philosophical ideas; they’re the most basic questions we have about the world.”
Written by Linda Sue Park
Illustrated by Matt Phelan
Published by Clarion Books l Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 1993