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
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
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.