Wallingford author writes the story of famous giant panda Bei Bei

WALLINGFORD — Cheryl Bardoe’s passion for writing led her most recent book, “Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story,” to be a 2022 Connecticut Book Awards finalist in the non-fiction picture book category.

“I think stories are things that really bring us together and I think it’s always really nice when an organization says, ‘Hey, this story helps bring people together. This story helps expand people’s view of the world and connects people and is enjoyable,” Bardoe said.

Bardoe, who earned his undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University, has now written six children’s books that focus on one aspect of science.

“I really appreciate the creativity and the art of writing for children and it’s just a special time where the world is presented and the books are a big part of it. So that’s what attracted me “said Bardoe.

In February 2020, Candlewick Press, the publisher of “Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story”, approached Bardoe to author the children’s book, which was officially released in December 2021.

“We had developed a concept of Bei Bei, obviously Bei Bei is a very famous panda, and it was a wonderful story and we thought it would make a great picture book, so we were looking for an author,” Joan Powers said. , editorial. director of “Bei Bei Comes Home: A Panda Story”. “Cheryl, I had never worked with her before, but she was recommended to me by several people I know, editors and art directors. She’s written five or six other children’s non-fiction books and they’re so compelling. Her style is wonderful, her research skills are impeccable, so she was a great choice.

Bei Bei, whose name in Mandarin Chinese means “precious treasure”, was born at the National Zoo in Washington DC in 2015. A beloved figure at the zoo, the giant panda was relocated in November 2019 as part of an agreement with China than all Giant panda cubs born in US zoos will be sent to a breeding program in China after their fourth birthday, according to the Washington Post.

Giant pandas are native only to China, living mostly in temperate forests in the high mountains of southwestern China, where they live almost entirely on bamboo, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They should eat about 26 to 84 pounds of it a day, depending on what part of the bamboo they eat. As a species, they are currently classified as “vulnerable”, reports the WWF.

The book was published in association with the Smithsonian, which reviewed the work at all stages of its development. The Smithsonian operates the National Zoo.

“They checked for accuracy, they clarified some points,” Powers said. “…The Smithsonian, of course, had thousands of photographs from the time Bei Bei was discovered in utero until he returned to China, so there were so many visual resources that we could use.”

Respite from the pandemic

Bardoe, 51, worked on the book during the pandemic, which she says was helpful as it gave her something enjoyable to do.

“We were literally setting up and launching the project in February 2020, so it was nice to have something adorable and cute to work on and spend some time learning more about Bei Bei” , Bardoe said.

The Connecticut Book Awards are held annually, this year taking place October 23 at 5 p.m. at the Hartford Public Library. They recognize the best books of the previous year about Connecticut or written and illustrated by residents of Connecticut.

“Starting in late May, all the judges get the books in hand and they start reviewing using a set of criteria and we have a rubric that each type of book is run through,” said Lisa Comstock, CT’s chief operating officer. Humanities and director of the CT Center for the Book. “The judges are experts in the field of literature. They could be librarians, they could be children’s librarians, they could be literature teachers, they could be authors or journalists themselves.

Powers said that “Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story” is a great combination of various things that create a good story.

“He’s got that kind of celebrity appeal, he’s got that animal appeal, but she goes deeper than that,” Powers said. “There is cooperation between the two countries and the conservation effort in general to save the panda. The fact that it touches on all these different areas, that’s what Cheryl really brought to it.

Pursue a teaching career

Bardoe, whose husband, Matthew Bardoe, is a math professor at Choate Rosemary Hall, said his next step is to earn his teaching certificate and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Connecticut. She is currently interning at Maloney High School in Meriden.

But she continues to write and find new ideas.

“I really like stories that kind of connect to science, history, and math and just pull together a lot of kids’ goals,” she said. “As a children’s book author, you interact a lot with young people…I’m excited to go to school full time and use what I know as a writer to help children to build their own voice.”

[email protected]: @jessica_simms99

Lola R. McClure