Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility


Children - Coming of Age
32 Pages
Reviewed on 11/22/2022
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Nicole Oke is a mother, wife, author, and member of the wildland firefighting community. She is based in Boise, Idaho where she works at the National Interagency Fire Center and spends her spare time helping to build tomorrows leaders through programs like the Girl Scouts.

After searching for a children’s book that would help her daughter understand the different elements of emotional intelligence and finding few options, she was inspired to become an emotional intelligence champion for children and decided to write Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility.

Her goal is to help children understand their emotions and build the skills needed to regulate and process those hard emotions. Her second goal was to create a way for parents and caregivers to be able to share these skills with the children in their lives, in order to raise a generation of emotionally intelligent, compassionate, strong, and resilient human beings!

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jennifer Ibiam for Readers' Favorite

Izzy jumped and ran to the Christmas tree in excitement because of the gifts from Santa. She couldn’t wait to see what new toys she got on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, Izzy saw a stuffed animal waiting for her and was disappointed. Her parents introduced the bear as Penny Panda, with whom Izzy could share emotions she didn’t understand. Izzy still didn’t know what to do with the stuffed bear. But it got worse. Her little sister, Maddie, received more gifts, which made Izzy feel bad. Izzy had no one else to speak to, so she went into her room and engaged with Penny Panda. She hoped for a silent listener, but something magical happened, and it changed her life forever. Follow Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility by Nicole Oke for the entire story.

A penny for your thoughts, anyone? Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility by Nicole Oke is a sweet and educative story with teachable moments. The first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover. I loved the picture, and the representations inside the storybook were superb. The play of colors warmed my heart. So kudos to illustrator Richard Hoit for a great job. I also loved the story because it contained wisdom nuggets that help children and adults navigate life. The author showed it is okay to feel bad. However, never bottle up your feelings because this could breed resentment, hate, and jealousy, like in this book. We must also exhaust all parameters before we judge a situation because we might be wrong. Thank you for this wisdom-filled storybook, Nicole.

Jamie Michele

Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility, written by Nicole Oke and illustrated by Richard Hoit, is a children's picture book that revolves around a little girl who struggles with a big emotion on Christmas morning. The book begins with an introduction to Izzy and her family, which include her father, mother, and baby sister, Maddie. After opening all her Christmas presents, Izzy is disappointed with the primary gift she received from her parents, a stuffed panda, and also with her perception of present inequity as she detects that Maddie's number of gifts exceeds hers. Back in her bedroom, her stuffed panda named Penny comes to life and tries to work through why Maddie might have more presents in the hope that talking through it might lessen Izzy's anxiety over the situation. Hoit's illustrations breathe life and color into the setting of Izzy, Penny, and their home with a gorgeous, vibrant palette and artwork that elevates the book exponentially.

Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility aims to address the internal turmoil younger children feel when questions arise as a result of believing something isn't fair. In Nicole Oke's tale, Izzy questions whether or not her parents love Maddie more which, of course, is not true. Her feelings are validated and the panda she did not really like or want turns out to be good for the situation she finds herself in. As a parent with a child that struggles with general anxiety, I am always keen on books that represent a validation of emotion and alternative ways to reduce it. While I might have chosen different questions that address the actual core of the emotion as opposed to it manifesting itself in the context of presents and correlating objects with love, I can see the value in the overall story. The true star of this book is the illustrations by Richard Hoit who displays an exceptional talent for artwork that both engages readers and keeps them interested in the overall story where the density of text might otherwise lead to fatigue. His skill had my daughter's fingers lingering on the pages, which is a genuine indicator of success in a children's picture book.

Pikasho Deka

Children are often highly sensitive to their feelings but can find it difficult to understand them. Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility is a charming children's picture book by Nicole Oke that aims to help kids to better acclimate to their emotions. Containing some brilliant illustrations by Richard Hoit, the book follows Izzy, a little girl who receives a teddy bear named Penny Panda for Christmas. Suddenly, Izzy gets an unfamiliar feeling all over her body when she sees her little sister Maddie receiving more gifts than her. Izzy wonders if her parents love her sister more than her, and she pours her heart out in front of Penny. To her surprise, Penny responds to her with some valuable advice and plays the Possibility Game to allay Izzy's fears.

Penny Panda and the Gift of Possibility is a picture book kids will find a joy to read. Author Nicole Oke finds an ingenious way to help children be in tune with their feelings and emotions through this delightful tale of a young girl and her teddy bear. Richard Hoit's illustrations add color to the pages, making the characters more vibrant and the story immersive. Izzy is a sweet and adorable child you can't help but love, and her interactions with her teddy bear are as entertaining as they are illuminating. This is a short and concise book, and the length ensures that children's attention will not waver. I very much enjoyed it, and recommend it to kids and parents alike.