A book by an artistic author who skilfully pairs complexity with simplicity, all at once.
Writing about this book does it no justice.
I first stumbled across Norbury’s work via an uncredited social media post. The post was one of his pictures, and the one I refer to is on page 12 of the hardcover book. It poses the oft phrased question:
“Which is more important”, asked Big Panda, “the journey or the destination?”
“The company,” said Tiny Dragon.
At the time it spoke volumes, however I was completely unaware it belonged to a talented spiritual author by the name of James Norbury. It is only by pure luck that I saw the same distinct duo on a hardback front cover several months later. Straight away I knew I wanted to read it, as well as gift it to a dear friend of mine, with whom I do share some adventures.
Referring to the front cover’s illustration that caught my eye, the two are in motion, next to a tree displaying little gold glitzy leaves that shine in contrast to the light-coloured mountainous landscape. The plot is the story of two friends sharing adventures throughout the four seasons, and it aptly starts in Spring.
Big Panda is the grounded character who does most of the teaching in the book, and Tiny Dragon is almost always the questioning learner, however there is balance. With minimal dialogue and a lot of visual content, so much is said by Norbury about many of life’s hardships.
His teachings on overcoming hardships come from Buddhist philosophies, whose guidance helped him through his own life’s obstacles, so much so that a copy of this book resides in the Dalai Lama’s monastery in India. Norbury’s vision was to communicate valuable concepts in accessible ways.
Suitable for anyone, young and old alike, this book is masterfully crafted. Each person will take away from it where they are at the time, and although younger readers will be unlikely to fully understand the spiritual teachings, they will still enjoy the wonderful illustrations.
Big Panda and Tiny Dragon is suitable as a gift or to own, and definitely one to share.
Reviewed by Rebecca Wu
Distributed by: Penguin Books
Released: 31 August 2021