10 November 2022

Review: The Journey by James Norbury

The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury book cover

* Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House *

The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon is a charming book written and illustrated by the talented artist James Norbury. It's the sequel to the international bestseller Big Panda and Tiny Dragon published in 2021, and while I've only read a sample from that book (freely available on the publisher's website), I was easily able to slide in with the characters as they embarked on their journey without the feeling I'd missed an important backstory.

A seemingly simple tale, our two protagonists, Big Panda and Tiny Dragon - delightfully depicted on the cover - embark on an adventure together, but things don't go to plan. As they encounter set backs and face difficult and challenging situations, Big Panda shares his wisdom with Tiny Dragon and the attentive reader:
'Problems should not stop us,' said Big Panda. 'They are simply nature's way of letting us know we need to explore a different path.' Page 22
The Journey is about so many things, including overcoming obstacles, generating hope and seeking happiness wherever we are. Achieving spiritual fulfilment, facing fear and adversity, seeing opportunities in setbacks, and having the courage to embrace change are also key elements of the tale. Other themes included gratitude, acceptance, resilience, mindfulness and above all, friendship.

At times, I did find myself wondering whether the author was trying to cram too many reflections and lessons into the book, with Big Panda seeming to espouse elements of Buddhist philosophy on one page and Hallmark sentiments on another.

While the book overall is a warm, feel-good read, sometimes the dialogue or mini life lessons felt contrived:
'But if making the change was easy, it probably wouldn't make very much difference. Great change requires great effort.' Pages 52-53
Big Panda is the Mr Miyagi of the book, full of wisdom, with Tiny Dragon eager to learn from his experience. Perhaps it's just me, but characters like Big Panda or Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, are very appealing. Maybe it's something to do with their size and majesty and the effectiveness of the writing, but it makes me want to sit at the feet of Aslan or Big Panda and ask my own questions off script. I wonder what they would say...
'This raft is a little like us,' said Big Panda. 'Where it's been doesn't have to determine where it's going.' Page 60
It's not just Big Panda who always knows what to do, Tiny Dragon also has some revelations to share towards the end of their journey:
'I still feel some sadness at the loss of my friends, my home and, of course, my tea set, but I think maybe I am learning to be more accepting of things.' Page 141
I think you'll agree we can all try harder to be more accepting of things. I know I can, and it's a constant battle of self improvement for most of us as we try to 'do better' each day.

The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury will appeal to readers of all ages and backgrounds who will each find something different to celebrate within the pages. Young readers who have faced recent adversity in the floods, will especially relate to the plight of Tiny Dragon; who reminded me a little of Pickett, Newt Scamander's little pet in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Beautifully presented in a hardback edition with gold foiling and silk bookmark ribbon, The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury will make a heartwarming gift at Christmas.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. Sounds sweet, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    1. Thanks Shelleyrae, hope you enjoy this if you get the chance.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!