Pandamonia – A Children’s Book Week Review

This book was Notable in the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Picture Book of the Year category.

Book Cover - Pandamonia” title=“View this item in the library catalogue

Pandamonia by Chris Owen and Chris Nixon

I love this book. Let’s just get this out of the way right now – I’m giving this a 5/5 stars for being amazing. And now let me count the ways…

Let’s talk about language…let’s talk about alliteration and rhyming, let’s talk about rich language. There are words out there that we use every day, a hundred times (or if you’re me more than that). Those words include: and, but, she, he, then, went, through, no, yes…I could keep going for a while but I think you get the gist. These are words we use all the time because they make up the structure of our language. We then add in adjectives (red, tall) and nouns (cat, Jessica), adverbs (fast, slow), and verbs (running, sitting) and we have sentences to use all day everyday. Then, and this is the language I love, we have all of the rich language that some people use all the time but most people save for special occasions. I love these words and what we can do with them and the thing I love most of all, is that we see them so freely in picture books. They have proven that picture books use more of this rich language than other types of writing and that is the most amazing thing in the world and why we should all love the amazing picture book authors that spend so much time and energy exposing children to rich language.

Children whose parents (and other adults) read to them know more words than children who are not read to.

The above is a fact, and the reason for this is the rich language in picture books.

I give you an example of text from Pandamonia:

The snakes serenade as the peacocks parade
and the devils start gnashing their jaws.
And when the koala whips up more palaver,
the penguins break into applause.

I am this || close to flailing in literary fangirl joy over these four lines. Words like serenade, parade, gnashing, applause, palaver, whips up, jaws, are all rich language and some of them the children who hear this story will never have heard before but when they do they will start learning them. Then they will hear them again, and their magnificent brains will start to build synapses around them. Because these words are read in context (so within a sentence that gives us some idea what a palaver is) children are encouraged to develop their comprehension skills and they will start to practise the skill of understanding unknown words based on the sentence around it. But, more often then not, children will just ask…what does gnashing mean? I will freely admit I don’t think I’d heard, or read, the word palaver before and I had to look it up in the dictionary…but now, next time I want to kick up a fuss, I will actually be whipping up a palaver.

On top of the wondrous, rousing, and gratifying rich language this book is also full to bursting with alliteration (repetition of the initial sound in a word – hippos hopping) and rhyming (I talked about the wonder of rhyming before so I won’t do it again so soon) which adds to the enjoyment and exposure to language that is inherent in this book.

The above is one of the reasons I love this book but more than that is the fact this book is fun. This book is fast-paced and vibrant and it makes you want to read it again and share it with others. I like reading this book and I really want you to go out and have a read yourself, and share it with any children you know.

I heard author Chris Owen speak about this book at an event earlier in the year and he said that this book was written to be read aloud; written to be performed. As I’m sure many of you know, the real test of a good book is how it reads aloud. Dr Seuss is the most fun when read aloud. Roald Dahl reads aloud beautifully. And as someone who loves listening to Audiobooks I know in the first few minutes/first chapter if I like the writing style and can listen to a whole book. And Chris Owen is right about this book, it begs to be read aloud and you talk about ‘snakes serenade’ and ‘the koala whips up more palaver’ this book deals with language in the best way – as something to be celebrates, enjoyed, and most importantly played with. The text is rhytmic and rhymes which allows the reading to get into the flow of the book and stretch their fluency muscles.

I love reading this book aloud. And I wish I could record it so you could hear it because I think you would immediately love it as much as I do.

And, because I love it, I want to share it with ALL OF THE CHILDREN but I’m also aware that it’s a slightly longer book so I might need to resign this one to my Bookstars session during Children’s Book Week instead of doing it at Storytime. Though I’m just as likely to read it any chance I get.