Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Just as hidden caves lie in the forest and treasures twinkle on the ocean floor, secret passageways surely await discovery in New York City's grand apartment buildings. Cultural commentator Lebowitz and architect/Princeton professor Graves-in an eyebrow-raising, distinguished collaboration-lend a sophisticated uptown mood to this curiouser and curiouser story of two precocious seven-year-olds. When bookwormish narrator Mr. Chas and his extroverted neighbor, Lisa Sue, step through a door in Lisa Sue's pantry, they enter a ``particularly empty'' hallway that is ``as long as a whole highway.'' Moments later, they startle two giant pandas, who introduce themselves as Pandemonium and Don't Panda to Public Taste. These black-and-white creatures, it seems, are weary of their seclusion (they can only go out in public disguised as dogs), and seek greener pastures in Paris. Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue devise a classic solution: they stage a panda race to raise funds for the pandas' plane fare. Scattered throughout are Graves's unobtrusively gentle, smudgy line drawings of the children, the pandas and, of course, architectural motifs. This dryly funny fantasy infuses historic urban buildings with the glamour and intrigue of fairy-tale castles. Ages 7-12. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-Sophisticated adults' visions of precocious children's adventures tend to be more appealing to sophisticated adults than to real youngsters. That's just the case in Lebowitz's first children's book, in which Mr. Chas, a seven-year-old Manhattanite, narrates what happens when he and his friend Lisa Sue discover two pandas behind a hidden door in her pantry. The pandas, ``Pandemonium'' and ``Don't Panda to Public Taste,'' long to live urban lives and eat city food, but fear being put in the zoo. Disguising themselves as dogs won't help, since animals are not allowed in museums or restaurants. Their dream, therefore, is to move to Paris, where ``dogs can go anywhere,'' and Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue set out to raise money for their trip. Unfortunately, they're unable to come up with the necessary funds. But luckily, Lisa Sue's father happens to be going to France and agrees to take the pandas. Lebowitz's style is artfully rambling as Mr. Chas airs his impressive vocabulary and his interpretations of why things are as they are. The fantasy is no more convincing than the children. With her deliberately arch style, the author has created an odd look at unsupervised bright youngsters. While Graves's pen-and-charcoal illustrations of the locale, the children, and the pandas in disguise are charming, the overall effect of the book is cloying.-Anne Connor, Los Angeles Public Library
Lauren Peterson
The two pandas that Lisa Sue and Mr. Chas find wandering around their New York City apartment building have a problem. As city pandas, they want to enjoy a city life, but they fear they'll be caught and put in the zoo. The dog suits they wear when they go out in public fool people, but the costumes limit the pandas to areas where dogs are allowed. The pandas need Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue's help to raise enough money to get to Paris--where dogs can go everywhere people can. The black-and-white drawings add a nice informal touch to the plot, which moves along at a fast pace and has a few really exciting moments. The ending, however, comes out of nowhere and seems unrealistic, even for a fantasy. What's more, in trying to be humorous and clever, Lebowitz (who is known for her caustic adult essays) has her characters saying things that even the most precocious seven-year-old wouldn't say or, in some cases, understand. A mixed bag, to be sure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679860525
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 10/4/1994
  • Pages: 72
  • Age range: 7 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Fran Lebowitz
Fran Lebowitz is the undisputed queen of the one-liners. She’s not a prolific writer, but has been widely quoted from her first two books, Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981), and faithful fans adore Lebowitz’ sardonic commentary on America and its many quirks.


Fran Lebowitz' New York City sensibility has been called "urban cool" by scores of reviewers, and while she definitely embodies the sarcastic and the bitter, she makes us laugh throughout. Lebowitz floated between odd jobs before breaking into the literary circuit in the early 1970s, when Andy Warhol hired her as a columnist for his Interview magazine. Nearly overnight, Lebowitz became known as a sharp-witted, irreverent humorist, and she added magazines such as Mademoiselle to her resume.

In 1978, Lebowitz collected a series of essays and released Metropolitan Life. Hilarious and luxuriously dry, Lebowitz' cynical outlook on the oddities of New York City during the 1970s included observations on human nature ("Humility is no substitute for a good personality") to her ongoing struggle with writers block ("Contrary to what many of you might imagine, a career in letters is not without its drawback -- chief among them is the unpleasant fact that one is frequently called upon to sit down and write"). Metropolitan Life quickly became a New York Times bestseller because of its ability to speak to readers in middle-America as much as those in New York City.

Her second collection of essays, Social Studies (1981) delivers more of the same sardonic humor, with her fearless approach to exposing human weaknesses. Another New York Times bestseller, readers are treated to the bittersweet doses of reality they know and love, such as "Remember that as a teenager you are at the last stage of your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you."

For more than 20 years, Lebowitz fans waited for random columns or interviews to get their fix of her classic one-liners. In 1994, The Fran Lebowitz Reader was released, combining all of her essays from Metropolitan Life and Social Studies into one riotous, cohesive publication. Reading Lebowitz in the 1990s, many of the essays, with titles like "Success Without College" and "When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes...Shut Them," still delivered the big laughs, proving that her deflating humor was still viable decades after they were originally published.

Lebowitz also published a children's book in 1994, Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas, about the treasures to be found in the secret passageways of a New York City apartment building. It appeared on the Publishers Weekly juvenile bestseller list.

Like Dorothy Parker of Algonquin Round Table fame, Lebowitz is best known for her lightning-fast, scathing comebacks. Her sophisticated pessimism and all-too-human humor make her a joy to read, whether it's done all in one sitting or one essay at a time.

Good To Know

Lebowitz worked many odd jobs -- including bartender and taxi driver -- before being discovered by Laurie Colwin at Dutton.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Frances Ann Lebowitz (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 27, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Jersey

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