Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

by Alicia Potter and Melissa Sweet

Shortly after marrying in 1934, Ruth Harkness’s husband left on an expedition... read more

Shortly after marrying in 1934, Ruth Harkness’s husband left on an expedition to China to find a panda, a species so rare and in such a remote area that no one in the Western world had ever seen one. Ruth wanted to go along but she was told it was no place for a woman, especially one with no survival skills or knowledge of the wilderness. But after her husband died on the expedition, Ruth decided to complete his mission, despite discouragement on many fronts. She traveled deep into China (with the help of a guide, a cook, and a crew of sixteen men to carry her baggage), where she found and captured a baby panda she named Su Lin. Returning to San Francisco with the panda, Ruth made front-page news and was lauded as a “woman explorer.” Alicia Potter recounts the fascinating story of how pandas were introduced to the West thanks to one woman’s determination in a picture-book history richly illustrated by Melissa Sweet with a blend of full-page illustrations and scrapbook-style detail art. An essential author’s note discusses the ethics of Mrs Harkness’s actions in light of changing attitudes about conservation and zoos since that time. (Ages 5–9)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2013

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