Pandemonium – A Story About Identity

A story just right for sharing by Gail Aldwin

The idea for Pandemonium came when I was teaching a module of writing for children to undergraduates at the University of South Wales. We were looking at features of anthropomorphism, where animals have human characteristics, and I shared examples where this technique was used to explore danger vicariously and therefore safely. Students joined the discussion before going slightly off task and started chatting about cute red pandas. I spent time wondering what the relationship would be like between a giant panda and a red panda living in central China. When I came to research this, I found the two types of pandas are completely unrelated. So, if there are red pandas, why not write a picture book about a purple panda? And use anthropomorphism to explore tensions around looking different and fitting in.

Peta is a cute and cuddly purple panda who lives with her parents in a department store. The whole experience of shopping with family members (at least in the pre-Covid days) is a regular occurrence for many children and would therefore make the story relatable. I decided to use some sophisticated vocabulary – the word pandemonium alone requires explanation and this is achieved through the story – but I also included other words that are fun to say, such as haberdashery. Word selection, patterned language and repetition make the story fun to read aloud. As children become more familiar with the text and pictures, they can say the repeated phrases and by doing so, build early reading skills.

Although the story is about the hijinks Peta gets up to in a department store (her purple coat offers camouflage) there is also an important message about not having to look the same as everyone else to fit in.

Pandemonium provides a great opportunity for children to understand everyone is unique with individual skills and talents. For a story which invites talk about identity and self-worth, Pandemonium is the perfect choice.

 

Available from Waterstones

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