WALLINGFORD – Sheryl Pardo’s passion for writing led her latest book, “Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story,” to a finalist for the 2022 Connecticut Book Awards in the photo-realistic category.
“I think stories are the things that bring us together and I think that’s always great when an organization says, ‘Hey, this story helps bring people together. This story helps broaden people’s view of the world and connects people, and it’s fun.”
Bardoe, who received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University, has now written six children’s books that focus on an aspect of science.
“I really enjoy creativity and the art of writing for children and this is just a special time when the world is being introduced and books are a big part of that. That’s what drew me in,” Pardo said.
In February 2020, Candlewick Press, publisher of “Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story”, approached Bardoe to be the author of the children’s book, which was officially published in December 2021.
“We developed a concept for Bei Bei, obviously Bei Bei is a very popular panda, and it was a great story and we thought it would be a great picture book, so we were looking for an author,” said Joanne Powers, editor-in-chief. Director of “Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story”. “Cheryl, I’ve never worked with her before, but she has been recommended by several people I know, editors and art directors. She has written five or six other non-fiction books for children and they are very compelling. Her style is great, and her research skills are impeccable, so it was a great choice.”
Bei Bei, whose name in Mandarin Chinese means “precious treasure,” was born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in 2015. A beloved character at the zoo, the giant panda was relocated in November 2019 as part of an agreement with China to send giant panda cubs that She was bred in US zoos to a breeding program in China after her fourth birthday, according to the Washington Post.
The giant panda is native only to China, and lives mainly in the temperate forests high in the mountains of southwest China, where it lives almost entirely on bamboo, according to the World Wildlife Fund. They should eat about 26 to 84 pounds of it each day, depending on what portion of the bamboo they eat. As a species, it is currently classified as “vulnerable,” the World Wildlife Fund reports.
The book was published jointly with the Smithsonian Institution, which reviewed the work throughout its development. The Smithsonian operates the National Zoo.
“They checked for accuracy, and made some points,” Powers said. “…The Smithsonian, of course, had thousands of photos from the moment Bei Bei was discovered in the womb until back in China, so there were plenty of visual assets that we were able to use.”
Bardoe, 51, worked on the book during the pandemic, which she said was helpful because it gave her something fun to do.
“We were literally building the project and launching it in February 2020, so it was nice to have something likable and nice to work on and spend the time learning about bye bye,” Bardoy said.
The Connecticut Book Awards are held annually, and this year they take place on October 23, at 5 p.m. at the Hartford Public Library. They recognize the best books of the past year about Connecticut or written and drawn by Connecticut residents.
Lisa Comstock, COO of CT Humanities and division director of the CT Center for Book said. “Judges are experts in the field of literature. They can be librarians, youth librarians, literature professors, authors, or journalists.”
Powers said “Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story” is a great mix of different things that create a good story.
“It has that kind of celebrity appeal, and it has an animal appeal, but she takes it even further,” Powers said. There is cooperation between the two countries and conservation efforts in general to save the panda. The fact that it touches all these different areas, that’s what Cheryl really brought up.”
Bardoe, whose husband, Matthew Bardot, a professor of mathematics at Choate Rosemary Hall, said her next step is to earn a teaching degree and an MA in Curriculum and Education from the University of Connecticut. She is currently training at Maloney High School in Meriden.
But she still writes and comes up with new ideas.
“I really like stories that are related to science, history, and mathematics and have a lot of lenses for kids,” she said. “Being an author of children’s books, you interact a lot with young people… I am excited about the idea of moving into the classroom full time and using what I know as a writer to help children build their own voices.”
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