Chu is a little panda with a big sneeze.
When Chu sneezes, bad things happen.
Will Chu sneeze today?
Publishers WeeklyNo wolves in the walls or button-eyed parents in this story about a baby panda named Chu. Yet Gaiman builds suspense from the enigmatic opening sentence (“When Chu sneezed, bad things happened”), which frames a portrait of the roly-poly protagonist, decked out in a striped T-shirt, aviator cap, and goggles. Gaiman maximizes anxiety by having Chu visit a tranquil library (“There was old-book-dust in the air”) and a crowded diner (“There was a lot of pepper in the air”). Twice, Chu’s anxious parents ask, “Are you going to sneeze?” and itchy-nosed Chu—snapping his goggles over his eyes in preparation—does not follow through. That evening, under a big top whose performing animals echo the menagerie in Rex’s Tree Ring Circus, Chu cannot resist, and his true power is revealed. Gaiman’s comic timing gets a boost from strategic book design and from Rex’s hyperreal paintings, which emphasize Chu’s round, fuzzy form and apparent harmlessness. Gaiman and Rex deliver a classic one-two-three punch, making hay from the notion that a cuddly baby panda is not to be trusted. Ages 4–8. Agent: Merrilee Heifetz, Writers House. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.)
Booklist“Kids will find the idea of a monstrous sneeze funny, and it may prompt some attempts of their own. Rex’s richly detailed illustrations are brimming with fantastic touches. Share this one at toddler storytime for lots of giggles, or one-on-one for spotting details in the art.”
Children's Literature - Peg GlissonGaiman sets up suspense, for the youngest of readers, with this simple opening sentence: "When Chu sneezed, bad things happened." His ever-watchful parents check on possible impending sneezes often, such as during visits to the library (dust-filled) and the neighborhood diner (where pepper abounds). At the circus, though, they are so caught up in the action that they do not hear Chu's warning that he needs to tell them something. Out comes an enormous sneeze, and the whole town feels the consequences. It looks as if a hurricane or tornado has come through! In spite of the havoc caused by Chu's sneeze, the story ends on a reassuring note, with Chu's parents tucking him into bed in their undisturbed home. Rex's slightly dreamy paintings are playfully detailed. The scenes are populated by a menagerie of anthropomorphic animalsincluding mice sitting in card catalog drawers, a giraffe librarian overseeing the reading room, a bald eagle eating with a hippo, a whale behind the counter, a kangaroo waiting tables, and a circus filled with every imaginable animal. The double-page spreads are packed with animals, shapes, and colors, yet Rex has composed the paintings to draw the eye to details, like the uncluttered entrance to the library, the circus ring around Chu, or the gumball machine just over his shoulder in the diner. Other pages have plenty of white space, allowing the reader to focus on the expressive faces of Chu and his parents. Gaiman's simple, predictable text pairs well with Rex's rich oils for an enchanting lapsit book. Allow plenty of time to enjoy the paintings over and over! Reviewer: Peg Glisson
School Library JournalPreS-K—A sweet, playful tale about a small panda with an extraordinary knack for inadvertently causing trouble. Chu's parents take him on several outings one day, frequently pausing to check that the youngster doesn't have to sneeze because, as the narrator warns, "When Chu sneezed, bad things happened." Though the dusty books at the library and pepper-infused air of a restaurant don't bring on a sneezing attack, the circus results in one that not only brings down the big-top tent, but also causes pandemonium throughout the town. Despite the simple story and unembellished text, there's more than enough in the art to keep readers engaged. A roly-poly panda in aviator glasses and a green-striped T-shirt, wide-eyed Chu cuts a comically endearing figure as he contorts his body and facial expressions in anticipation of a sneeze. The locations depicted in these richly saturated painted spreads have an old-fashioned flavor, and vintage touches are visible throughout: the pillbox hat his mother sports, card catalogs at the library, a gumball machine at the diner. These prim, orderly settings are the perfect setup for the chaos that Chu introduces, and there's a mischievous sense of humor that results from placing exotic anthropomorphic animals (squids, narwhals, giraffes, wombats) onto these decidedly conventional backdrops. While children will delight in seeing such a tiny creature wreak havoc, the story still concludes on a reassuring note, with Chu's parents gently tucking him in. A small but delightful dose of fun.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
Kirkus ReviewsA modest yet richly colorful day in the life of a small panda who may or may not sneeze, which may or may not be calamitous. "When Chu sneezed, bad things happened," portends the opening. Chu is an adorable panda kid in a striped T-shirt and aviator hat. Mellow white space surrounds him and his panda parents except when they arrive at the day's three destinations: the library, a diner and the circus. These settings are sumptuous spreads. Rex's oil paints showcase lights, darks and textures while populating the scenes with droll-looking animals and fine details to pore over. A circus turtle flies on a trapeze; library mice sit inside old-fashioned card-catalog drawers working on miniscule computers. Due to the library's "old-book-dust," Chu's mother knows to check: "Are you going to sneeze?"--"aah-aaah-Aaaah- / No, said Chu." That comical buildup and take back spreads across three pages, including a suspenseful page turn. At the circus, readers finally behold the power of a nasal expulsion. The climax is visually realistic yet dreamlike, with a nice, slyly deadpan ending that finds Chu's family somewhat better off than the rest of their town. The single problem with this book--potentially a deal breaker--is the use of this particular Chinese name for the sake of a sneeze pun. Weigh great art and clever story against the exploitation of the old, unfortunate cliché that Asian names sound funny. (Picture book. 2-5)
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