My friend introduced me to this book, which is relevant always but especially right now. Inspired by the authors family, who immigrated from Korea, Sujean Rim addresses the challenge of moving to a new community. In the story, a panda named Chee-Kee Loo and his family leave the Island of Coney to come to live in Bearland.
Detailed illustrations help depict the sometimes daunting process of adjusting to a new land with new rules and new ways of doing things. Thought bubbles reveal the many questions the residents of Bearland have for Chee-Kee.
Some plot choices are surprising but could inspire a conversation. Why does Chee-Kee need to help the other bears in order to fit in? Why does he get a ball out of a tree that both bears and pandas could climb? And why does he use bamboo (panda food) to create a pole vault? All of these are wonderings you can ask aloud to be used as a teaching moment. Welcoming new members into the community or the classroom is complicated and nuanced. What could the bears have done differently? How do we deal with assumptions and questions about newcomers?
Make sure to read the backstory provided by the author to facilitate discussion after reading. This book can begin a conversation to cultivate empathy and encourage inclusion.