Picture Book Review- Please Mr Panda by Steve Antony

Please, Mr. Panda TITLE: Please, Mr Panda
 Betty Goes Bananas        The Queen’s Hat
Betty Goes Bananas in her Pyjamas
The Queen’s Handbag (coming soon)
Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles (coming soon) 
Hodder Children’s Book
How hard could it be to give a
box of free doughnuts away?
When it comes to good manners
maybe harder than you think.

Please, Mr Panda (Book Depository affiliate link)
iBooks format:  Please, Mr. Panda – Steve Antony (iTunes affiliate)

Picture-Book-Review-Please-Mr-Panda- RATING:  A
Everything about Steve’s
illustration style is impressive
from colour choice, character design
to page composition layout.

Brownie points also for the writing
style that is both understated
and witty.
The book cover design of ‘Please Mr Panda’ is of the main character holding a box of doughnuts. The best features of this simple book cover design include
1) the facial expression of Mr Panda which is far from impressed
2) the careful choice of a warm grey background to highlight Mr Panda’s black and white colouring and draw the focus onto the brightly coloured doughnuts.
3) the similarities in composition and design to Steve Anthony’s other picture books ‘Betty goes bananas’ and “Betty goes bananas in her pyjamas’. Even though I think it is important to experiment with illustrations and style, it is also equally important to create a brand that is immediately recognizable.

The front and back end pages introduce the secondary character of the story, the polite lemur. In the front end pages, I like how the lemur is hidden from the reader among rows of brightly coloured doughnuts that resemble a patterned wallpaper effect. In the back end pages, the illustration is simply of a satisfied snoozing lemur.  Steve is not afraid to use white space to create impact here.

I admit, Steve’s illustration style is particularly appealing and right up my alley. He strongly focuses on character design (and very cute character design at that).  His compositions are well thought out for maximum impact.  I love the bold contrasting colours used and despite being a very minimalist style without background scenery there is enough detail and humor to capture my interest.

I enjoy how every backdrop scene is in warm grey except three double spreads. The warm grey brightens the colours of the characters and the doughnuts so that they are the primary focus for the reader.  The three other double spreads where grey is not the backdrop colour, Steve appears to be going for a different illustration effect. Two of the double spreads involve Mr Panda rowing over to the orca (killer whale) in the sea. To show the difference between the sky and sea, the sky is in grey and the sea is white.  The one double spread that has a completely white backdrop is where the lemur first appears in a upside-down scene. I find this white backdrop very dramatic. It is an illustration of the lemur close up with his piercing red eyes. The white backdrop makes the red eyes stand out. I think the white backdrop may also be used to signify the climax of the story where manners are first used.

Some other interesting illustration detail to look out for is Steve’s selection of black and white animal characters like the skunk, an ostrich, orca and of course the lemur.  Steve also has skills in subtle changes of expression on his characters from Mr Panda’s peeved expression at the start to a slightly more happier expression when he meets the polite lemur. I did enjoy the shocked pose of the skunk when he misses out on doughnuts and wait until you see the orca’s reaction.

I have read many reviews about this picture book having an unclear message around good manners. Reviewers don’t like Mr Panda’s grumpy attitude and also not providing a reason to why he changes his mind about giving any doughnuts away. Personally, I don’t think adults give enough credit to the intelligence of children working out the message from the illustrations and what is not being said to Mr Panda that makes him not share. In regards to Mr Panda’s attitude, I think that’s the most amusing and best part of the story particularly his action and one liner at the end when he finally gives his doughnuts away. I had a laugh out loud moment there. If Mr Panda had been cute in personality as well as appearance that would have made such a dull story.

Like the character Betty in ‘Betty Goes Bananas’, there is this great juxtaposition between Mr Panda’s round, soft physical appearance and his crusty demeanor. Actually, I think he is a pretty realistic resemblance of wild Pandas. I have heard that their cute appearance is deceiving in that it is not uncommon for the Panda to get irritable,  and can be as dangerous and aggressive as any other bear. Listen to the podcast “Conversations with Richard Fidler” when he interviews Lesley Hammond. She has filmed wildlife including the Giant Panda in China for the last 20 years and you will be surprised about her descriptions of  their behaviour and antics.

Overall, in regards to Steve’s writing style, it fits well with the illustrations. He is economic in word selection, uses short direct sentences and creates a right balance of repetition and wit. Even though Mr Panda is repetitive with his question and his reactions, Steve mixes the repetition up with different responses by each of the animals. Very amusing!

Steve lives in the virtual world here

If you want to listen to a groovy interview with Steve check out episode 115 from Matthew Winner’s ‘Let’s Get Busy Podcast’

On Steve’s website, under his About Me page, he lists all his past interviews, articles and appearances on radio, podcasts and videos.

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