Pandamonia (Chris Owen, illus by Chris Nixon, Fremantle Press)
Pandas are adorable creatures right? So soft and furry and on-trend with their black and white colours. They also don’t do very much except laze around and chew on bamboo stalks. However, the panda in this story really, really needs his beauty sleep, and zoo visitors are told: ‘just don’t wake up the panda whatever you do.’ Because if that happens, the crabby panda will set off a chain of unsettled animals and it will all end in ‘pandamonia’. Chris Owen’s sense of the absurd is finely tuned; the hippos, for instance, will get jumpy and start to hop, ‘and once they begin, they are tricky to stop’. All the other beasts will become agitated too, ‘So waking the panda might spark off a riot,/and that’s why we like to keep things nice and quiet.’ The rhymes and repetition demand to be read aloud, and the vocabulary is extensive. Chris Nixon’s bright and colourful illustrations are equally impressive; they have a retro graphic feel to them, and are so beautifully designed and organised that even though the animals fill up the pages, there is enough space around them for the eye to rest. With words and artwork in happy harmony, Pandamonia is highly recommended for all ages (including adults!).
Thuy On is a Melbourne-based reviewer and books editor of the Big Issue