Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland

illus. by Sujean Rim. 40p. Little, Brown. Feb. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316407441.
K-Gr 3—Inspired by her family's journey from Korea, Rim addresses the challenge of moving to a new community. Traveling by boat across the vast ocean from the Island of Coney, a panda named Chee-Kee Loo and his family come to live in Bearland. Watercolor and collage are used to depict the sometimes daunting process of adjusting to a new land with new rules. Thought bubbles reveal that the residents of Bearland have lots of questions. But what they actually say is, "Hello! It's nice to meet you, Loo family." Some plot choices are surprising. Why does Chee-Kee need to help the other bears in order to fit in? Why does he get a ball out of a tree that both bears and pandas could climb? And why does he use bamboo (panda food) to create a pole vault? These questions could be used as a teaching moment. Welcoming new members into the community or the classroom is complicated. What could the bears have done differently? How do we deal with assumptions and questions about newcomers? Be sure to read the backstory provided by the author for a discussion of the topic.
VERDICT This is a simple, gentle selection that works as a good conversation starter to nurture empathy and encourage inclusion and a sense of community. Pair it with an interactive exercise to illustrate the important issues introduced.

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