How can a panda possibly be bad? They’re floof from back end to front end! They’re adorable, hapless, roly poly balls of fuzzy bamboo sucking gorgeousness! And that is essentially the problem our protagonist in this genius little book faces, the adorable panda, Lin!! And this book is Bad Panda written by Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey and published by Faber.
Now, Swapna Haddow and Sheena Dempsey, are of course the incredible duo behind the Dave Pigeon series of books (keep your eye open for a little pigeon cameo and DP reference in this book by the way). And so it was a sheer delight to see them back for a whole new book, containing their incredible humour packed writing and illustration style, but on a completely new theme of badly behaved pandaradge!
Lin the perfectly behaved, lovely, sweet panda has been parted from her beloved badly behaved brother and carted off to a zoo many miles away. Determined to be reunited with him, her only plan is to be bad, really very bad! The worst panda of all in fact! So the zoo will send her packing!! That however is quite a challenge when you’re so incredibly adorable and fluffy! No matter what Lin does, growling, snarling, being dirty (poo licking even!!!) the zoo will not send her back. Lin takes more and more drastic action, and, well you’ll have to read the book to find out how and if she succeeds! But you will be shocked and outraged by Lin’s behaviour!!
There is something quite magical about that perfect author/illustrator combo! Swapna and Sheena are the funny dream team to be reckoned with, and I think Bad Panda is my favourite yet.
Swapna’s writing is just brilliant. It feels completely accessible and easy to follow for children of varying ages, and insanely entertaining for those adults who may be reading the book out loud, and that balance is a tough one to achieve. There are some brilliant lines in the book, including my favourite term of all – “unpandaly” – which I’m now going to be injecting into my conversations daily! It is properly laugh out loud funny. A unique story that hasn’t been told before. It keeps you guessing, so packed with twists and turns. Bad Panda is thoroughly entertaining and that is the basis of storytelling and hooking children into reading. This is the book I would hand out to those hard to please children, those less engaged with reading. And of course those who love reading already, will just love it even more after this book! Swapna’s writing is perfection here.
Another joyous aspect of Bad Panda though, is clearly Sheena Dempsey’s brilliant illustration style. She packs so much character into each page. And the true genius of this book is the comic/novel hybrid style! From text heavier pages with spot illustrations to full comic style spreads, this variety keeps the reader engaged and entertained and allows the illustrations to do some of the storytelling also. It’s a powerful partnership that I would love to see more of, where writer and illustrator get an equal share of the stage. And it’s not just about valuing both creative talents, but also it’s the way to make a fantastically brilliant storybook that children and adults want to read. Creatives working in partnership to really bring a story to life.
This “Specially designed to support reading” book has been intricately thought out, to the layout and spacing of the type, the kind of type used, and the extensive and varied illustration work. It makes for an accessible read, perfect for those children daunted by text heavy books, or those children with dyslexia, where these additions can aid ability and therefore, enthusiasm, to read.
Bad Panda, Li, is a character with attitude, determination, sense of loyalty and a refusal to accept an image that her appearance might present! Kids will cheer her on, laugh at her antics and possibly her misfortunes too (sorry Li), she’s everything you would want from a character.
Books like Bad Panda are perfect for use in schools and libraries because they show children that books and reading can be just as entertaining and fun and silly as any game, TV show or film they might watch.
As part of the blog tour, with thanks to Sheena, Swapna and Faber, I’m completely thrilled to be able to offer some fantastic downloadable activity sheets, that will allow you to share this hilarious book with young readers, enthuse them further and spark their creativity inside and outside the classroom!
There is a brilliant mix of activities from colouring sheets for younger children, comic strip making, story writing, a word search and my ultimate favourite, panda ear make and do, so you can look like the adorable Lin and then be horribly bad!! Download the sheets by clicking the image below:
Bad Panda is out now and available from all good book shops and libraries. You can support my blog and your local bookshop at the same time by ordering a copy through my Bookshop.org affiliate link. (thank you).
Thank you to Faber for sending me this copy of Bad Panda for my honest thoughts, and thank you for reading this very bad Book Monster review!