CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 34. . . .May 12, 2017
When a raccoon is joined by a panda during his nightly foraging for food scraps, not only does an unusual adventure begin, but so does a new friendship. The raccoon, Beans, offers a variety of food to the panda, Bamboo. But Bamboo won’t eat any of it. After a trip to the library to research pandas, Beans explores the garbage cans of a nearby Chinese restaurant, without success. The pair then head to the airport and, hiding in cargo, fly to Beijing to find food for Bamboo. A trek through some the wonderful attractions of China ends at the Chengu Panda Base. But the sad goodbye between these two friends is not the end of the story.
Beans and Bamboo is a wordless picture book in a graphic novel format. Words are limited to signs, such as Chan’s Chinese Restaurant, ticketing counter and Chengdu Panda Base. Despite the limited text, the story flows. However, the reader needs to be able to make numerous inferences based on the picture sequence. These include figuring out why the panda does not eat the food scraps offered by the raccoon, what the raccoon discovers at the public library, and why the pair fly to China. Background knowledge of a panda’s diet is helpful for a young reader to understand the plot and to make key inferences by observing the picture details and sequence.
The detailed coloured pencil illustrations by Caroline Stellings sequence the story’s events and invite the reader to explore each picture for clues regarding the plot. At times, the smaller panels seem repetitive and, although likely useful as a storyboard planner, are not visually necessary for the book. Stellings’ pencil crayon technique adds interest to the story, but the use of rays of light in numerous panels is distracting and confuses the eye.
Beans and Bamboo’s graphic novel format has definite appeal and will likely be popular with struggling readers. This format is a good springboard for critical thinking and conversation. The need for background knowledge of pandas throughout the story provides a link to nonfiction reading and encourages the development of research questions. And the underlying theme of the development of a new friendship will appeal to readers of all ages.
Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.