Bad Panda by Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey

I absolutely love Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey! They’re the dream team who brought us the hilarious Dave Pigeon series, which has been a huge hit at my school (and makes me laugh every time). They’ve teamed up again to bring us the comedy gold that is Bad Panda. In the first book in this new series, Swapna and Sheena introduce us to Lin, a panda who is sick and tired of being called cute and fluffy.

Since the day that she was born Lin’s cute, fluffy face has been adored at the panda sanctuary. Her face is on all of the posters and people bring her gifts. Eventually though, all this fame wears her down. One of the things that Lin loves the most is spending time with her brother, Face-Like-A-Bag-of-Potatoes. Lin’s brother is her hero and she envies his carefree life. When Lin is taken to her new home at the zoo, she vows to do anything she can to get back to her brother. She is going to be a total grotter of a rotter of a panda, so that the zoo will send her home. On the plane to her new home, Lin meets Fu, the other panda who will be sharing her enclosure. Fu is a huge fan of Lin’s and he is only too happy to help her carry out her plans and prove that she is a bad panda. How can she show the humans how bad she is when they only see how adorable and fluffy she is?

Bad Panda is absolutely hilarious! It had me and my 6-year-old laughing-out-loud the whole way through (so much that I had to stop reading because I was laughing so hard). Swapna Haddow’s text and Sheena Dempsey’s illustrations are the perfect combination. You can tell that both of them have had a ball of a time making this book, because it is so much fun to read. I loved the mention of Dave Pigeon in the story too (look out for this!). It’s a story that begs to be read aloud, so you’ll want to find any kids that are willing to listen. You just have to be prepared to read while giggling. Lin’s brother is called Face-Like-A-Bag-Of-Potatoes and I laughed every time I read his name.

One of the things I love about Swapna’s writing is that she makes a joke last. From the list of things that Lin hates (fluffy blankets and unfluffy blankets) to Fu’s suggestions of things that Lin needs to become to get sent home (a bathtub of baked beans?), the longer the joke goes on, the sillier it gets. Swapna also uses some hilarious similes in this book! The pandas are told on the first day of Panda School that going to the zoo is like ‘eating a chocolate sundae with pizza-flavoured sprinkles.’ My favourite simile though is when Swapna describes Lin’s rage erupting in her tummy ‘like an angry hippo trapped in a vending machine.’ Sheena’s illustration for this image is spectacular!

Sheena Dempsey has perfectly captured both the cute, fluffiness and the many moods of Lin. Throughout the story we see Lin’s mischievous grin, her frustration and anger at being misunderstood, and her determination to make her plans work. One of my favourite illustrations of Lin is when she is raking her hands down her face in frustration because Fu isn’t understanding what she’s saying. So many of Sheena’s illustrations made me laugh, especially the hippo in the vending machine.

Bad Panda will have you laughing out loud. It’s the perfect family read aloud, that will work for different age groups, or as a class read aloud for Years 3-6. I can’t wait to see what Lin and Fu get up to next!

Bad Panda is finally released in NZ and Australia this month, although you may have to wait a little longer due to lockdown. Make sure you follow the Bad Panda NZ Blog Tour to find out more about the book from Swapna and Sheena. See the dates below:

2nd September: Book Trailers for Kids and YA –

6th September: I’ll have a Bad Panda giveaway and a guest post from Swapna Haddow right here on My Best Friends Are Books –

7th September: What Book Next? –

8th September: The Book Whisperer –

10th September: The Sapling –

Panda at the Door by Sarah Horne

I have loved Sarah Horne’s illustrations for Sam Copeland’s books, including Charlie Changes into a Chicken and his latest book, Uma and the Answer to Absolutely Everything. I love the way that Sarah brings out the unique personality of each character she illustrates. Sarah has just published her first book as both author and illustrator and it is such a fun read. As soon as I heard that it was about a panda with a love of Mary Poppins I knew I would love it.

Pudding the panda lives at Edinburgh Zoo. Everyday she makes people smile, and at the end of the day, she snuggles in to her pen and watches Mary Poppins on her TV. Her keeper, Gerald, gave her the DVD when she first moved to the zoo as a young cub, and it helped her to feel less lonely. What Pudding really wants though is a real family to take care of, like Mary Poppins. Gerald tells Pudding that the zoo are sending her away to China, but Pudding is determined to run away before that happens. Luckily, Pudding discovers that there is a family close by in need of help, so she sets off to find them. On the day that Pudding escapes, it is Callum Campbell’s ninth birthday. Callum comes home from school to find his dad storming out of the house. His parents have forgotten all about his birthday, and the only present he gets is a certificate telling him that he has adopted a panda. The next day, Pudding turns up on the Campbell’s doorstep, ready to turn their lives around. However, news spreads about Pudding’s escape, and a large reward is offered for his return. The Campbell’s horrible neighbours are certain that the panda is hiding at their house and they are intent on getting the reward. With some panda cakes, some clever disguises, and a spoonful of sugar, Pudding just might be able to bring the Campbell family closer together.

I adore Panda at the Door! It is brimming with heart and humour. I fell in love with Pudding the panda from the very first page and her antics kept me smiling right until the final page. Much like her idol, Mary Poppins, she changes the lives of those around her for the better and her positivity is infectious. The Campbell family have a few problems, and it seems that only a loveable panda can help.

The story is a lot of fun to read, and it would be wonderful to read aloud (especially to 6-10 year-olds). It is Sarah’s illustrations that make the story even better. So many of the illustrations made me chuckle, whether it is Mrs Campbell fainting in the hallway with her legs in the air, or Pudding dressed up like the Queen.

I love Sarah Horne’s first book as author and illustrator and I hope to read many more.