Now, I love a book about a zoo. I get such a thrill of anticipation. Will I see a familiar face peeking out at me from one of the pages? Will there be horns aplenty? Or an appearance of my dear cousin Marashi, currently residing at Longleat Safari park? Sadly, there was not a rhino to be found in this book. But it is such a gem that I actually stopped looking for long-lost relatives and found myself entirely immersed in Mr Peek’s parade preparations. Clearly rhinos are too independently-minded to follow a zoo keeper around in an animal parade. Especially a zoo keeper as witless and extraordinarily careless as Mr Peek!
Mr Peek is celebrating the arrival of new baby panda Lulu. Yes, a female animal character with a starring role! And she’s a fearless one, that Lulu! Mr Peek has planned an animal parade around the zoo to welcome Lulu in style and has invited the world to come and watch. His preparations are orderly and list-based and he day-dreams about perfect straight lines of animals marching in apple pie order. Sadly, Mr Peek’s daydreams are much more orderly than his reality. A bit like me, as I imagine a pristine home filled with beautiful lines of perfect books. And I step over the stacks of books on the stairs and reach for my coffee bucket, having neglected to wash last night’s wine jug. So Mr Peek’s day doesn’t go quite to plan and things aren’t quite as tickety-boo as he imagines them. He makes his first error at the penguin pool, forgetting to shut the gate and beginning an unexpected animal parade. Things go from bad to worse when Lulu vanishes and Mr Peek has a mini-meltdown. Luckily, his clear-thinking son Jimmy is at hand to save the day and restore order to the zoo, just in time for The Grand Opening. With a few beautiful twists and imaginative ideas, father and son restore Lulu to her rightful place at the head of the parade and Mr Peek’s dream of straight lined animal marching comes true. Phew!
The joy of this book is it’s gorgeous design and the way it treats its readers as intelligent and curious souls. It really is a thing of beauty. I love Mr Peek’s pyjamas and the imaginative use of green throughout the book. It reminds me of Frann Preston-Gannon’s work, with its repeated earthy colours and its design. There is so much to see in Pandamonium at Peek Zoo. Each page has a clever detail to spot, or a hidden twist of the tale to unravel. There is much to do – children will be spotting Mr Peek’s mishaps and the resulting mayhem. They will be pointing out all the animals, reading signs and spotting all the little discrepancies – like the duck in the penguin pool and the cat on the weather vane. This is a book to relish and take time over. It is one to listen to out loud and revel in the use of language like ‘gadzooks’, ‘tickety-boo’, ‘apple pie order’, and ‘Mr Whiskerwhitz’.
In short, it is one to read again and again, because the more time you spend with this book, the more it will give you.
And if you still need convincing that this book is a must-have, let me tell you this…. there is a polar bear called Herbert… or is it Kenneth? and a tortoise named Horace. Delicious.