Raucous read for kids

JUST don’t wake the panda whatever you do,” Perth children’s author Chris Owen warns in his second book Pandamonia.

Webster’s defines pandemonium as a wild and noisy uproar, rumpus or commotion. Change an E to an A and Pandamonium is complete and utter chaos: “Often following the disturbance of a blissfully sleeping panda,” Owen says.

• Chris Owen, with sons William (9) and Marcus (7). Photo by Annie Owen

• Chris Owen, with sons William (9) and Marcus (7). Photo by Annie Owen

The book is a joyful romp through a zoo, the lyrics in the vein of Roald Dahl.

So you’re here at the zoo on this glorious day

“You’re sure to have fun – it’s a great place to play

“Come through. Look around. Relax and explore

“Inside you will find there are creatures galore

“You’ll have a magnificent time at the zoo…just don’t wake the panda whatever you do.”

For those ignoring the decree, there’ll be hopping hippos creating a “hullabaloo”, sloths creating a “kerfuffle” and flamingos and dingos doing a fandango

“It was my aim to write a book that’s good to read out loud, [but also] a get up and dance and clap your hands kind of book,” says Owen.

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The target audience is 7–11 year olds, but Owen’s use of big words is quite deliberate.

“I don’t try to dumb down vocabulary,” he says.

Before Cupid lured Owen to Perth, he was a broadcast journalist in London: “It sounds grand but there are a lot of very small radio stations,” he says, telling the Voice he’s now a dad of two boys aged 9 and 7.

The book is illustrated by Chris Nixon, a graphic designer at the forefront of the explosion of public art around Perth, who’s also done an album cover for Tame Impala.

The drawings in Pandamonia keep pace with the beat of the story: “The number of animals builds as the chaos builds,” Owen says.

The book, published by Fremantle Press has already interested buyers in Taiwan, the US, Europe and the UK.

“[And] it’s already been launched in Singapore.”

The Perth launch kicks off Book Week at the State Library on Saturday August 20, and the book and artwork will be on display for the week.

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