August 15, 2018


Written by Hilary Leung
Illustrated by Niall Eccles
North Winds Press /Scholastic Canada
32 pp.
Ages 3-8
April 2018

Panda and Parrot are unlikely friends. Parrot is definitely left-brain dominant, happiest with books, logic and puzzle solving.  His part of their domed home is neat and orderly, everything in its place. Panda is not like Parrot.  He is the creative of the two, loving music and art and play. His area is chaotic and colourful and lively. 
From Stego-cumulus by Hilary Leung, illus. by Niall Eccles
Like many friends who get along, Parrot and Panda occasionally clash when their personalities need different things. Heading to the top of their favourite hill to lay on their blankets–Parrot on a neat black-and-white checkerboard, and Panda on his colourful random bubble one–for an afternoon of cloud-watching and daydreaming.
From Stego-cumulus by Hilary Leung, illus. by Niall Eccles
But while Panda sees a giant dandelion, Parrot sees the cirrostratus cloud. Panda sees Pegasus, but Parrot declares it a stratocumulus. For each cloud formation in which Panda imagines something extraordinary, Parrot sees the scientific and the factual. He tells Panda what the cloud is, not what it looks like. When the rain hits, courtesy of the nimbostratus cloud, the two frustrated friends part, disappointed by the other's lack of imagination or acceptance of science. 
From Stego-cumulus by Hilary Leung, illus. by Niall Eccles
However, Parrot and Panda are friends and are soon missing each other. With a little compromise to the other's leanings, the two find a way to support and be supported, ending with a declaration by both of seeing a Stego-cumulus.

While it's always wonderful to see Hilary Leung's illustrations (he did a bang up job on David Bruins' Ninja Cowboy Bear series), I am so impressed by the depth of his storytelling and to be introduced to a new illustrator, Niall Eccles of Prince Edward County, Ontario. The story is perfect for young readers who have noticed they are different from their peers or siblings and think that it means any of them are lesser for their differences. They just haven't learned that differences make our world better, fuller and richer.  By making his characters, a panda and a parrot, so different to begin with, Hilary Leung establishes the idea that differences can be what you look like, where you come from, what you like and how you think. Niall Eccles's pen and watercolour art brings those differences to the page with joyful colour, texture and line. The details in Parrot and Panda's home and their yards is striking, and parents and teachers will need to allow more time to get past those pages as young readers look for all the differences. (Teachers and parents can also share Parrot and Panda's cloud notes at the end of the book for a little humourous learning–Panda amends Parrot's scientific notes–as well as download two colouring pages from Scholastic Canada at
Colouring pages from Scholastic Canada at
The words and pictures are clear: differences do not make one better than another or negate the possibility of friendship. Parrot and Panda are equals all the way, just different, and Stego-cumulus shares that positive message about acceptance of those differences with the reward of friendship and learning.

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