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The Lady and the Panda by Vicki Constantine Croke
The Lady and the Panda tells the story of Ruth Harkness, the Manhattan socialite who brought back the first baby panda from China. She married explorer Bill Harkness in 1934 and two weeks later, he left for China in attempt to capture the first live panda, but he died in Shanghai two years later without ever returning home again. Ruth Harkness set out to complete her husband's mission, and after conquering remote jungles, mountains, and the Chinese bureaucracy, she succeeded where others had failed. This was partly due to her foresight to attempt to find a baby panda she could nurse on the perilous journey home instead of trying to bring back an adult. Her return made her famous and the toast of New York society. Subsequent trips by Harkness did not fare so well, and attempts by others to capture the pandas led to injury and death of the scarce animals. Harkness' fame waned and she died alone after years of alcohol abuse. Vicki Constantine Croke's depiction of the rise and fall of the female explorer's life has received mostly positive reviews with the San Jose Mercury News saying, "Croke makes the most of this rich material. She tells the story well, provides an abundance of panda lore and touches on all the relevant issues - environmental awareness, cultural imperialism, racism, sexism - without heavy-handedness."