Reviews /

The Panda’s Child

Authored by Jackie Morris
Illustrated by Cathy Fisher
Published by Otter-Barry Books

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Exquisite poetic words and glorious artwork combine in this truly remarkable book. A village child is lost in the forest and hope for him is lost until he is found, having been cared for by a panda bear. From that day on the villagers revere the bear, bringing offerings and keeping watch over her and her baby as she did over their child. Nine years later strangers come to the village looking for a panda cub to capture and take back to their great leader. This brings the boy, the villagers and the animals into great danger and only he, and the creatures of the forest, can save them.

Such a powerful and poignant narrative can only be matched by equally powerful artwork and Cathy Fisher excels in creating atmosphere through the haunting colours of the misty forest contrasted with the bright colours of the huntsmen, the luminous light of morning as panda emerges from her cave, the beauty of a baby, lost and then found. Throughout The Panda’s Child, in the shape of the rock formations and a huntsman’s coat, there are hints of where help will come from, and the motifs of fern fronds protecting mother, child and baby panda weave hope throughout what is at times a heart-stopping narrative. Told with clarity and grace, the central thread of a mother’s longing for her lost child is expressed in simple unadorned language:

Every mother knows
the cry of her own child.
And the boy’s self-sacrificing courage is captured by the understated:
‘In that one day he
had travelled further from
his people than he
ever had before. 

The glories of the forest, the skies, the landscape, are captured by the shades and shadows, the detail and energy of the artwork while the arresting narrative is told through strikingly beautiful language. The Panda’s Child is a book to be shared, treasured and revisited by adults and children from six or seven upwards.

Longlisted for The Wainwright Prize 2024