As authors, we send our books out into the world and, if we’re lucky, they connect us to good people whose paths we wouldn’t otherwise cross.
For 28 years, Dinner at the Panda Palace has been my excellent emissary.
Dinner at the Panda Palace started as a simple counting and sorting book with lots of animals and a party atmosphere to make the learning fun. By the time it was done, it was a book of welcome, as a tiny mouse comes knocking at the door, asking “Is there room for one more?” It’s this part of the story that resonates most with readers and has led to so many wonderful connections over the years.
The book has connected me to families:
Parents and children write me letters and, much to my delight, send photos and drawings.
The book has connected me to teachers:
Maryann Wickett, recipient of the 1996 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, wrote two articles sharing her and her students’ expansive ideas on the math concepts in the book. Two decades after her first article appeared, she let me know she’d be reading the book to children in Kenya, where she was going partly on a humanitarian mission, partly as a tourist. “Panda is for the humanitarian part,” she wrote.
The book has connected me to religious leaders and educators:
Serena Evans Beeks, Executive Director of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles wrote, “Dinner at the Panda Palace has been recommended as a chapel book for Episcopal schools and preschools — perhaps not what you intended when you wrote it, but the ministry of hospitality shines through it!”
Helen Singer, Early Childhood Librarian at the Rodeph Sholom School in New York City wrote, “Dinner at the Panda Palace…ties in beautifully with the Jewish concept of “Hachnasat Orchim,” welcoming guests or the stranger into your home, as well as with the values of kindness and inclusion.”
As writers, we never know which minds a book will enrich, which hearts a book will touch, what connections will be made. I’m grateful to have a book that has connected me to such good people. In Mr. Panda’s words,
No matter how many, no matter how few,
there will always be room at the Palace for you.
My thanks to Winding Oak, publishers of Bookology, for sharing this essay celebrating the 28th anniversary of Dinner at the Panda Palace.