Thursday, May 17, 2018

Camp Panda

Camp Panda. Catherine Thimmesh. 2018. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 64 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lumbering down the grassy mountainside in southwestern China--being careful not to slip--is a giant panda teddy bear.

Premise/plot: This one is subtitled: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild. The book is a cautious celebration of a new re-introduction program in China. It's a program designed to reintroduce giant pandas back into the wild--giant pandas born in captivity. The idea is that humans have largely contributed to the plight of the giant panda--both directly, indirectly. It is up to humans to come up with a solution. Or perhaps I should rephrase that to be a part of the solution. Researchers have to think long-term and big-picture. Researchers have to take things slowly--not rush the process. Researchers have to be adaptable and be willing to change as they go.

One aspect of this new program is that baby pandas never see their human caregivers. Humans wear panda costumes when interacting with the pandas. Another aspect is that it is all about providing an environment where baby pandas can learn, can grow, can become more and more independent in taking care of all their own needs.
It's crucial that pandas in the release program not become acclimated to humans, for several reasons. First, it trains the cubs not to depend on humans providing for them. Instead it encourages and reinforces the cubs' natural behaviors in seeking out their own food, water, and shelter. Second, it encourages a healthy fear of humans--discouraging the cubs from wandering onto farms and being shot by farmers protecting their livelihoods. Fear of humans also sends the pandas scurrying for cover should people approach them--critical for avoiding poachers who are illegally out to kill them. (27)
My thoughts: The book isn't a comfy-cozy read all about happy-happy success stories regardless of the reality. Like most nature shows, this one is realistic. It is neither happy-happy or bleakity-bleak.

The audience, I believe, would be those in elementary and/or middle school.

The photographs, on the other hand, would be appealing for all ages.

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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