Panda Man vs. Chiwanda (Manga)
Publisher: VIZ Media (VIZ Kids)
Release Date: May 2011
Price: $7.99
Creator(s): Sho Makura (story) & Haruni Kato (art)
Format: 96 pgs.; b&w w/ color; Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-14-21535-22-7
Age Rating: 6+
ICv2 Rating: 2 Stars out of 5

This book is caught halfway between Where’s Waldo and Captain Underpants, with a little of The Pink Panther and Kung Fu Panda thrown in.  A mixture of manga-style story with interruptions for puzzles, it might find an audience with younger kids, but the story will disappoint even some of those.  Some parents will not be thrilled by the 8-page fart-propelled chase sequence.  Libraries may wish to avoid it, because the book has puzzles which strongly encourage drawing in the book.

Some of the humor is drawn from the “hero” panda’s eating habits.  In fact, that’s pretty much it, for humor.  The story revolves around an incredibly talented jewel thief whose motive only becomes clear late in the book.  The origin of her powers and gadgets never does.  There is also magic, martial arts and a total suspension of the laws of physics.  Kids already familiar with other manga may wonder why this one is left-to-right.  Some may sympathize with the “neglected” little girl, but others will recognize her as being a spoiled brat, and wonder why she is finally rewarded for obnoxious behavior.

If you have an overwhelming need for graphic novels for the very young, this might be marginally worthwhile.

--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.