Mine! Mine? Yours! OURS!
A curious Little Panda stumbles upon a den while out exploring the forest. In the den, he finds Big Panda sound asleep. Startled awake and visibly irritated, Big Panda plunks his small visitor back outside. Not deterred, Little Panda wanders back indoors in the hopes of sharing a breakfast of bamboo shoots and tea, but Big Panda isn’t having it. “Mine,” Big Panda repeats unkindly until, softening, he spies a kite hanging on his wall. “Yours,” he offers as a consolation. So begins this brief adventure in what is mine, what is yours and, finally, what is ours.
Little Panda meanders back through the forest, struggling to control his new toy. The wily kite knocks over a drum, ends a game of checkers, tangles in a fishing line, and upturns a raft, much to the chagrin of the other forest animals. One by one, they bristle, annoyed by Little Panda and his disruptive kite. “Mine,” they say in turn, referring to their upset possessions. “Yours,” they say, referring to the offensive kite before sending a saddened Little Panda away. But when the kite picks Little Panda up off the ground, the animals join forces to attempt to pull it and him back down. Big Panda reappears just in time to snag the tail and bring the whole bunch back to earth. “OURS!” they all cry in shared celebration.
The entire text of this picture book is comprised of three repeated words - mine, yours, ours. While the concept of telling a story with so few words is intriguing, the execution falters. Overall, the narrative is confusing. It is not clear, for example, who the two pandas are to one another. Picture book convention would have readers view them as parent and child, but they appear not to know each other. The relationship between Little Panda and the other animals is also unclear. The story needed more development - whether in textual or visual storytelling (or both). The text and images feel incongruent. If the book is meant to convey a message of sharing, which seems to be the direction it was taking, it has missed the mark with a hard-to-interpret ending. Ultimately, it is difficult to make sense of this book. The concept and narrative fall flat and leave readers with more questions than answers.
Visually, Mine. Yours. is an appealing package. Qin Leng’s watercolour and ink illustrations are delightful. Her whimsical style is gentle yet cheerful, never too busy but with enough detail to invite closer inspection. The images are often cushioned by ample whitespace that allows them plenty of space to breathe on the page.
All of the animals in the book are native to Asia; a welcome departure from the standard troupe of woodland animals that typically feature in these types of stories. Qin Leng depicts pandas, pangolins, racoon dogs, river otters, and fishing cats playing games, rafting, and otherwise going about their anthropomorphic business. The animals are identified for readers at the end of the book.
A mostly-wordless picture book is no easy feat. Mine. Yours. is a valiant attempt that unfortunately falls short.
Devon Arthur is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Young People’s Texts and Cultures program. Formerly a children’s bookseller, she now works at the Vancouver Public Library.