Friday, August 31, 2018

Panda Camp by Catherine Thimmesh

Finally, a new panda book! It's a bittersweet addition to my library collection though. I remember as a child the excitement and interest in endangered pandas and how cute and exotic they seemed, how we watched videos of newborn cubs, and how they were almost like celebrities! Fast-forward through the years, and panda-fever has caught on again. Elementary school kids beg me for panda books, kids make panda pillows in sewing class and panda designs in perler beads. But are pandas in any better state, twenty years (ok, maybe closer to thirty) down the road? Sadly, it seems not. Is this a species that will ever exist successfully in the wild? Will they even survive in captive breeding populations? For that matter, should scientists devote time, effort, and money towards saving this rare and endangered species when there are so many other urgent crises at hand?

Thimmesh addresses these and other concerns, while still supplying plenty of cute panda pictures. She focuses on a specific program in China which is focusing on reintroducing giant pandas to the wild. This program includes a careful isolation of pandas from human (and shots of humans dressed in giant panda costumes) as well as a summary of the challenges and difficulties faced in the breeding of giant pandas. A chapter is included on the difficulty and controversies around saving large animals like the pandas, tigers, or polar bears whose habitat may no longer exist.

The narrative ends with the "success" of the panda breeding program - in 2016 pandas were removed from the threatened species list and reclassified as "vulnerable." However with less than 2,000 pandas left in the wild, how long will that continue? Will the reintroduction of pandas continue to change the ecosystem or will their habitat loss continue? Thimmesh concludes with the often-familiar list of "what you can do", a glossary, sources, and index.

While this narrative touches only briefly on larger concerns of conservation, ecology, and environmental concerns, it's also the first narrative nonfiction book on giant pandas I've seen in quite a few years and will fill a gap in library collections. It's aimed at a younger audience who may not be ready to think critically about environmental concerns but are at a point where they are gathering knowledge and thinking about how they can affect their communities on a smaller scale.

Verdict: Well-researched and written in an accessible style, this is sure to fly off your shelves to panda fans as well as providing a starting point for students wanting to do more in-depth research.

ISBN: 9780544818910; Published 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Purchased for the library

No comments: