Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Small Readers: Welcome, Bao Bao by Gina Shaw

Pandas are one of those topics that seems to die out for a while and then revives as strongly as ever and I have hordes of small children, mostly girls for some reason, begging for ALL the panda books.

This nonfiction easy reader tells the story of two pandas in the Smithsonian's National Zoo and their cub, Bao Bao. The story begins by introducing the readers to the adult pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, and their endangered status. There is a discussion of how the pandas are cared for and then the exciting birth of a new baby panda in 2013. The rest of the book talks about Bao Bao's birth, naming ceremony, and first year.

The book includes a beginning note to parents and educators on the reading level. Level 4 is for a fluent reader, basically a child ready for or already reading chapters. There are also activities and discussion questions. There is a one page glossary at the back.

The book is liberally sprinkled with photographs of pandas as well as a key to the pandas' exhibit, pictures of the naming ceremony, and more.

I removed all the level 4 easy readers from my easy reader section a few years ago. The bulk of my audience looking for easy readers want more beginning titles and I found it confused everyone to have a sprinkling of books that were equivalent to what they'd find in the chapter books or nonfiction section. Now I include level 4 books in the juvenile nonfiction. I've had one person ask for level 4 and it was easy to show them the nonfiction series that were equivalent to that reading level. So, this title won't actually be put into the easy readers (unless my cataloger makes a mistake) but it will make a nice addition to the juvenile nonfiction.

My only caveat with this title is that, while most of the text is laid out on a white or plain background, a few pages have the text pasted over a photograph, making it difficult to decipher.

Verdict: Elementary age panda fans will be thrilled with this title. It's not too challenging, but isn't really a picture book or easy reader and there are lots of fun panda pictures. The text flows smoothly and there's a good mixture of simple and advanced vocabulary. It's available in both paperback and hardcover.

ISBN: 9780448482255; Published 2015 by Penguin Young Readers; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library for use as a prize; Purchased for the library

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