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Book: Little Panda: The World Welcomes Hua Mei at the San Diego Zoo
Author: Joanne Ryder
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, republished in 2004
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Ryder, Joanne. Little Panda: The World Welcomes Hua Mei at the San Diego Zoo (published in 2001 by Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing). Our younger son Jeremy enjoyed reading about animals when he was beginning to read, so to supplement his readers we checked a number of animal books out of the local library, including this one. A rare giant panda named Hua Mei (the name means “China-USA”) was born at the world-famous San Diego Zoo on August 21, 1999. She was the first giant panda cub ever to survive in captivity in the Western Hemisphere.
Joanne Ryder, author of many popular books about all kinds of animals, traces the life of a young panda for the first year with minimal text and many remarkable real-life photos from the Zoological Society of San Diego that follow her from a “pink and pale” cub to the thriving black-and-white. Did you know that, at birth, panda cubs are more than 800 times smaller than their mothers and that they are blind for the first few months of life? Actually, there are two parallel texts. The one is fairly simple and straightforward for younger readers, printed in large type, while the other is slightly more complex and in smaller type, with detailed information about pandas, thus appealing to more than one reading level.