When I Draw a Panda~by Amy June Bates

Long ago, I read that adult human beings draw at a 10 year old drawing level. This is because sometime around that age the child realizes that they are not the best artist in the class. Because there is always one, right? And the kids who are not that One lose confidence and stop loving to draw quite as much.

This has always made me sad. It’s why I never liked juried art shows for kids. Who on earth has the authority to tell Megan that her clown is not as “good” as Ben’s?

Therefore, this is the perfect book for me to recommend (and wish I wrote). When I Draw a Panda, written and amazingly illustrated by Amy June Bates, is a celebration of the imperfection of creating one’s own, unique art.

The little girl narrates as she draws a panda on a chalkboard. She admits that when she is asked to draw a “perfect circle” hers often come out a little “wonky”. Her whimsical panda comes to life and his bold spirit encourages the little girl to explore her artistic freedom and enjoy her own special way of drawing even more.

Amy June Bates’ illustration style is full of joyful animation. Much of the type is set creatively moving the readers’ eyes through one page to the next. The front end pages show various ‘how to’ diagrams. “How to draw a perfect princess”, etc. The back end pages feature the same instructions, but now are covered by colored pencil drawings rebelliously ignoring the rules underneath.

I wish I had this book when I was little. I would love to put it in the hands of all young readers who love to draw. Then maybe, just maybe, it would make all children feel like they are the best artist in the class?

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.


  1. I love this book already. My 11-year-old granddaughter could have been the author. I will have to buy it for her.

  2. I should also add that the artwork on the cover is beautiful!

  3. Yes, it’s a curse to have grown up in the era of “color within the lines!” Perhaps I should start drawing!!

  4. This book looks wonderful! If I had read it when I was young, I think my artistic endeavors would be much more interpretive and creative and lean less towards realism. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Judy. I was that ‘could draw the best kid’ and it often made me feel uncomfortable because I knew it made others feel like they couldn’t. I would have loved for all of us to have had this book. Hopefully, we can get it into a lot of little hands who will be inspired to keep being artists. Thanks for visiting!

  5. Such a wonderful premise to celebrate the talents of young readers, writers, and creators.

  6. Maybe just maybe I could draw a panda! thank you for sharing.

  7. I’m getting this book for my great nieces and nephews to send this message to them early! Move over Van Gogh!!!

  8. Wow! I need to check this book out! I would bet this happens with most any skill – kids need encouragers to keep them going and finding their own way. Thanks for sharing this book!

  9. I love every word of this, Jennifer! So many of my sentiments about kids (and adults) being “good” at drawing are expressed here. Labels like “good” “bad” “best” “winner” are vocabulary words we could take out of art rooms completely. Can’t wait to see this book!

  10. Love this!! I wish I’d had this book when I was young. I decided I wasn’t an artist after my art teacher laughed and called my leather-tooled robin a chicken in front of the whole class. I was mortified.

    • Oh Norene, you can’t imagine how reading your comment just gutted me. Often even if it’s not a teacher it’s another student. Or even the child’s artwork not being given the same attention as another’s is exactly what a young person picks up on. I’m sorry. I think you should retaliate by painting up a storm!

  11. Yes, I have experienced the sadness of watching my son become friends with a boy known for his slick, commercial-looking drawings. The kind of drawings that tend to look like everything you see on the market. While my son’s drawings were quirky and funny. He stopped drawing, saying he wasn’t as good as ____. And nothing I could say would make a difference. Most of the kids in the class said ____ was a great artist, and their stuff was terrible. And yes, it was around the age of 11 when it happened. I wish art teachers could do something to insulate kids from this. Anyway, I digress. This book looks lovely, and perhaps I’ll buy it and lay it out on a table for my soon-to-be-17-yr-old son to read.

    • Hi Jilanne, I’m sorry that this happened to your son. And I’m sorry that it is a common occurrence. When I was a Sr. in High School I did “work study” with the Junior High Art Teacher (really I had enough credits to graduate and Barb was giving me private art lessons, so I helped her in her classroom). Barb Wertz Leiden is a true testament to how to nurture, inspire, and spark creativity in each and every person who met her. She would have each student draw a picture of her on the first day of school. Then about halfway through the year, draw her again with her seated on the same stool at the same place in the room. She would mount all these before and afters and hang them all over her walls. Always—- always—- the first drawing was of a tiny person floating in the center of the page. But the second drawings bled off from any side, maybe just captured Barb’s sparkling blue eyes, or her wildly animated hair. What a gift! Each and every student of hers left her classroom knowing they were creative and with the confidence to express that gift. But—- I feel certain she would say, and I believe that it is never too late to nurture that gift.

  12. Lovely! I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

  13. Looks amazing! I look forward to reading it and enjoying the artwork too!

  14. Must read for every child (and adult) who thinks anything they draw is “wonky”. Thanks for introducing it to us. 🙂

  15. Empowering book! Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *