Review Blog

Jan 28 2010

Wang Wang and Funi by Phil Cummings

cover image

Ill. by Shane Devries. Imagination Ventures, 2009. ISBN 978192127004.
(Ages 3+) Highly recommended. This beautifully presented picture book which entices the reader into the world of the Adelaide Zoo and its new arrivals, the two giant pandas from China, is an excellently crafted introduction to the world of these animals. Highly respected local author, Phil Cummings has shown the other animals in the zoo wanting to see their new house mates, and they peek through branches and around trees, under buildings and through the bamboo, to see the black and white creatures at play. Eating, playing, stumbling and scratching, it becomes all too much for the pandas, and they fall asleep.
Phil Cummings engages the younger reader with his rhyming phrases which encapsulate the day's doings of the giant panda. Children going to the Adelaide Zoo will know what to look for as they see these creatures, and be prepared in advance for their experience. Kids will love to read the book with their teachers and parents, learning some of the rhymes to repeat for themselves. Read out loud, this book is a treat for all. The illustrations by new graphic artist, Shane Devries, will delight the readers, as they search for all the elements of a zoo, watch out for the different animals represented, view the different types of enclosures the animals are kept in, and marvel at the colour and vitality of the animals shown.
Two pages I loved amongst many are the opening double page spread with its representation of the main gate at the Adelaide Zoo. The wonderful page has recognisable aspects of the main gate, and draws the reader into the book. The second to last double page spread is just wonderful, with the animals from the giraffe down to the beaver, watching as the pandas fall asleep. The eye is drawn form the top left hand corner down to the bottom right, ready for the next page. On the last page is a map showing the journey the pandas are making from their home in China to their new home in Adelaide, and information about the pandas is given.
Produced under the auspices of the Adelaide Zoo, proceeds form the sale of this book will go in part to help protect the pandas, only 2500 of which still live in the wild. It is great to see an institution engaging an author and illustrator for such a project, as many such books commissioned for events such as this are dreary and didactic. This is a far cry from that. Black dog books has also published a book by the Adelaide Zoo's conservation psychologist, De Carla Litchfield, called Saving Pandas, which is a non fiction book giving a huge amount of information about these creatures. The two books compliment each other well, and would form a basis of a panda display to celebrate the arrival of these bears in Australia.
Fran Knight

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