Saturday, November 19, 2022

Mr. Panda for the Holidays!


If you like quirky books, this PBT post is for you! From the Mr. Panda series by author/illustrator Steve Antony, I found a book for Thanksgiving, a book for Advent, and a book for celebrating love. That last book could be for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or anytime you are anticipating a loving ritual. Because these humorous books have little text but complicated social situations, they would be great for any age! For older children, move quickly to more complicated life applications before they are turned off by the simple characters. Don't let Mr. Panda's gruff face fool you! He is all about generous servanthood! Be sure to help children read his facial expressions. They are important and not obvious. Older kids might even talk about the complex skill of reading another's emotions as an aspect of empathy (tie this to The Great Commandment). Here's Mr. Panda really happy!

Many versions of these books have parallel Spanish text. There are other books in this series. I don’t recommend those here, but they would be fun additions to any family’s reading time. 

Please Mr. Panda is about the power of the word “please.” 

Good Night, Mr. Panda is about bedtime rituals. 

All these Mr. Panda books are structured similarly. Their illustrations are clever and funny, and they may need to be explained. They are quick reads with simple but subtle messages. Mr. Panda is a generous (though seemingly unenthusiastic) giver who receives inappropriate responses from an early cast of characters. Once Mr. Panda gets the response he expects (in these books from Lemur or Penguin), he responds generously. He is quite a behavior-oriented teacher! These fun books are truly quirky. Your kids will love them! And you might too.

For Thanksgiving:

Picture Book: Thank You, Mr. Panda

Summary: This book begins with Lemur asking Mr. Panda about the large stack of wrapped presents he is carrying. Mr. Panda explains that the gifts are for his friends. Lemur follows. Throughout the pages, Mr. Panda gives a gift to a character who responds with a complaint or other lack of appreciation. Lemur reminds all, "It's the thought that counts." The last gift is for Lemur who enthusiastically says thank you. Mr. Panda says, "You're welcome. Remember, it's the thought that counts." Lemur opens the gift and is surprised!

Hanna’s Comments: This book gives you the opportunity to talk about all God's gifts - those we enjoy and understand as well as those we suffer through or are puzzled by. Talk about how we would have nothing if it were not for God. OR Discuss how less than perfect gifts (bad weather, getting sick, etc.) help us be thankful for God's perfect gifts (good weather, feeling healthy, etc.). For more pragmatic application, talk about gifts from humans that we may not appreciate but should still be grateful for. Ask why that is and build some empathy among your audience!

Original Publisher: Scholastic, 2017

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Connect this book to scriptures involving saying thank you to God or being thankful for all the good that God gives us.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of young children who are first learning about the important spiritual practice of saying thank you to God. Talk about why God wants us to say thank you and practice being thankful together. Other life applications would be anticipating Thanksgiving prep and work afterwards. Have them promise to notice and say thanks to the cooks and those who clean before and after.


For Advent:

Picture Book: I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda

Summary: This story begins with Llama asking Mr. Panda what he is making in the mixing bowl he is holding. In his usual gruff but intriguing manner, Mr. Panda says, "Wait and see. It's a surprise." But Llama will not wait! Penguin declares a willingness to wait on every page.  The rest of the cast of characters ask about the treat to come but are not patient. Some exit, saying waiting is too hard. 

Some just simply refuse to wait. Finally Penguin yells, "I'll wait, Mr. Panda!" Penguin's waiting and Mr. Panda's good work leads to a HUGE DOUGHNUT with sprinkles! Penguin ends by saying thank you to Mr. Panda and adds, "It was worth the wait!" 

Hanna’s Comments: The primary themes & scriptures of Advent involve hopeful waiting. There are many examples of waiting in the scriptures, but this time of year we focus on waiting for the promised Messiah. If I was using this book in a lesson, I would have the children repeat Penguin's last words throughout your lessons. Remind your audience of some of the extraordinary events of Decembers in their past. Talk about how those events were like Mr. Panda's doughnut gift. (Extraordinary! Miraculous! Big love! WonderFUL! etc.) Consider having donuts with sprinkles!

Original Publisher: Scholastic, 2016

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Connect this book to scriptures involving waiting or preparing for God’s goodness, such as Advent scriptures or scriptures of longing found in the Wilderness stories in Exodus.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of young children who are anticipating (with patience or not) all that their Decembers will bring. Help them anticipate the distractions of the busy season and the benefits of waiting for the beauty and joy of the birth of the Christ Child. 


For Any Holiday Involving Love:

Picture Book: We Love You, Mr. Panda

Summary: Skunk says he needs a hug. Mr. Panda, wearing a Free Hugs tee and holding a heart balloon, responds, "OK, Skunk. Let's have a hug." BUT Skunk was talking to another animal. They hug, and Mr. Panda is left out. Thus begins a short series of animals asking for hugs from other animals, not Mr. Panda, even when he offers a hug. 

Mr. Panda decides, "Nobody wants my hugs," forgetting that his 2 companions (Lemur and Penguin - heroes of the 2 books above) are available for hugs. Eventually, those 3 characters hug and an avalanche of other animals join in. Mr. Panda responds while squeezed, "I love you, too."

Hanna’s Comments: This book gives you the opportunity to talk about how we treat those closest to us versus how we treat acquaintances and even strangers. Consider how love shows up differently in families, at church, in the classroom, in public spaces like shopping centers & parks. Ask this not so simple question: Does love = kindness? Always? Talk about how some families are affectionate and some are not. Have children focus on 1 John 4:8b: "God is love." Wow! There is so much in those 3 words! Be thankful to God that love abounds in many ways. 

Ask your children for some quick reminders of Bible stories showing different ways of loving. If they don't remember specifics, describe a Bible story scenario and let them finish it. Wrap-up by having them tell you favorite ways to show love and to be loved. Point out the variety among your audience. If your kids are old enough, teach them the 5 Languages of Love made popular by Gary Chapman: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Gift Giving, and Acts of Service. You'll find a PBT picture book about that HERE

Original Publisher: Scholastic, 2019

Age Appropriateness: 3 and up

Formats other than Book: Tablet

Scripture Connections: Connect this book to any scripture about love.

PBT Applications: Read this book to a group of young children who are about to visit a home for elders. Talk about how love might be best shown in this context.

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