With such an irresistibly alliterative title it’s hard not to love this book immediately. A Pandemonium of Parrots and Other Animals is a gorgeous exploration of animals by illustrator Hui Skipp, written by Kate Barker and published by Big Picture Press.
This non-fiction picture book introduces young readers to the collective nouns for different animals, from a pandemonium of parrots to a lounge of lizards and many more in between. Each double page spread is dedicated to a different group with a short rhyme that accompanies them.
The choice of language is in each verse is brilliant, expanding on the meaning of the collective term for each animal:
A Huddle of Penguins
Cosily dressed in feathery coats,
they snuggle together on icy floats.
Wing to wing they closely cuddle,
tapping their feet in a rhythmic shuffle.
There are opportunities on each page that invite the reader to look more closely at the animals and start to discriminate between them with a range of questions that will strengthen and encourage children’s development of language understanding. There are questions relating to verbs that children will be familiar with such as “Who’s flying?” whilst also introducing verbs that they are less likely to hear regularly, “Who’s grooming?” Questions such as “Who’s grumpy?” and “Who’s the youngest?” encourage the reader to make inferences about what they can see and this is a fantastic way for an adult to tease out and develop their knowledge.
Illustrated with bright, bold colours this book is a feast for the eyes and one that is appealing and accessible for children to look through on their own without relying on the text as there is so much to discover. The animals are cartoon-like whilst still maintaining many distinctive features, full of expression and appearing in different positions, they create a wonderful sense of movement throughout the book.
Non-fiction books can be a way to encourage reluctant readers to start engaging with books and the brilliance about this one is just how wordy it is without appearing wordy at all. At first glance, there are hardly any words on each page, you are drawn in by the illustrations. But the longer you spend looking, the richer the language becomes. The quick-fire questions require as little as one word answers so they are closed in that sense but they can open up a world of discussion and inspire children to ask further questions.
Most importantly for children, this book is fun. The pictures are entertaining and the group names are funny, stirring up hilarious mental images. Our particular favourite is “A Caravan of Camels”. This is a wonderful work of non-fiction, a beautiful book full of vibrant illustrations and delicious language.
Many thanks to Big Picture Press for sending a copy of this book for review.