You probably know the name Rob Biddulph; expert creator of picture books, brilliant #DrawWithRob sessions during the Covid pandemic and world-record holder for the biggest on-line art lesson. The multi-talented Rob has now used his very capable hands to create an awesome middle-grade read that is jam-packed with his fantastic drawings.
Peanut Jones is having a tough time. Her dad mysteriously disappeared a year ago and whilst her mum is convinced that he walked out on the family Peanut is sure that there is another explanation. To make matters worse, she is struggling to settle into her new school where Maths and Science take precedence over her love for drawing.
Everything changes when Peanut discovers a bright yellow pencil that has the special ability to make whatever she draws real, and Peanut, along with her sister Little Bit and school study buddy Rockwell, find themselves stepping through a door into the magical world of Chroma. Home to the world’s creative and artistic energy, Chroma is under threat from an evil mayor and his army of robots that are trying to suck every last bit of creativity and colour from the world. Returning home safely might be the best idea but Peanut is determined to help the people of Chroma and in doing so she might just find the truth about what happened to her dad…
Peanut Jones and the Illustrated City is a brilliant adventure written with humour and heart and filled with amazing illustrations. Who wouldn’t want to go on an epic quest come rescue mission where you can dive into your bandolier of art supplies and draw whatever you need or feel like eating along the way? Like all epic adventures there is danger, magic, twists, turns and plenty of close scrapes, whether it be fleeing from the robotic RAZERs, making hasty escapes on a rapidly spray-painted helter-skelter or racing down a snowy hillside in a quickly sketched bobsled. As long as you have creativity and imagination there doesn’t appear to be any problem that cannot be solved.
Readers will love joining Peanut, Little Bit, Rockwell and Doodle the dog - love this name - on this thrilling adventure and with these travelling companions you are in very good hands. Peanut is brave and determined, five-year-old child genius Little Bit is smart and witty and Rockwell, well, he is mostly concerned about making it back in time for his school exam. Adding to the fun is a fabulous cast of supporting characters including Jonathan Higginbottom, a talking alligator with aspirations of becoming a nursery nurse and the heroic Table Guy whose superpower is the ability to have total control over wooden furniture.
Bursting with creativity and imagination, Biddulph’s story swept me away into the most wonderful of worlds. I loved exploring the different zones of Chroma - The Strip where speech bubbles appear above heads, The Cute Quarter with its colourful shops shaped like the items that they sell, the ‘dappled and sun-flecked terrain’ of the Light District, Vincent Fields with its ‘harder lines and distinctive brushstrokes’ and the mesmeric Rainbow Lake. It is a wonderfully imagined world that is peppered with artistic references and I cannot wait to revisit.
This is genuinely a book that is hard to stop reading, Biddulph draws you in - pun intended - and makes sure that you quite simply do not want to leave. Despite being almost four-hundred pages long, the short and snappy chapters zoom by and there’s always the need to read just one more. With a final three pages that made my jaw-drop, I cannot wait to see what happens next in the trilogy and to find out what further adventures await Peanut and co.
With huge thanks to Pan Macmillan for this fantastic story.
Recommended for 9+.