Dave Pigeon at East Taieri School

Swapna Haddow Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, Roosting With Dave Leave a Comment

Today I visited East Taieri School with ReadNZ’s Writers in Schools programme. It was my first school visit since lockdown and I was worried I might be a bit rusty but the staff and pupils at East Taieri were so kind and welcoming that I soon got back in the swing of things.

We created brand new stories for Mean Cat inspired by Dave Pigeon and I loved hearing how Mean Cat demolished a city, landed in a pool of baked beans and tripped over the world’s smallest worm amongst many, many other brilliant ideas.

Thank you so much to the staff and pupils at East Taieri for being so pigeontastic.

Happy Ballet Bunnies Day!

Swapna Haddow Ballet Class in Session Leave a Comment

Today is the official publication day of Ballet Bunnies. Beautifully illustrated by Binny Talib and written by me, as Swapna Reddy, this new series from Oxford University Press follows Millie and her four bunny friends on their ballet adventures.

I hope you enjoy this series and if you do there are more to come next year! If you spot a Ballet Bunnies book in your local bookshop or library do let me know because I would love to know where they have hopped off to around the world.

Love, Swapna 🙂

Return to Wonderland celebrates Alice Day

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It’s almost time for Alice Day this year! To celebrate Team Return to Wonderland is asking you to vote for your favourite character from Wonderland and the winner will be announced on Alice Day on the 4th of July.

Look out for ways to vote on Macmillan’s social media channels in the run up to Alice Day. All the characters from Return to Wonderland are playing including the Mock Turtle so get voting for him from Tuesday 30th June!

Publication date changes

Swapna Haddow Ballet Class in Session, Pawsome News, Scrapbook Leave a Comment

Dear readers,

2020 promised to be the launch of many lovely new books, including my debut picture book with Dapo Adeola and a brand new ballet series with Binny Talib, under my pseudonym Swapna Reddy.

As you can imagine, the COVID-19 pandemic has effected the publishing industry and many publication dates have been delayed. Sadly, this includes a few of my upcoming books too.

Information is changing daily but I will try to keep this post updated with revised release dates as soon as I hear more.

Publication updates:

Ballet Bunnies: The New Class, Ballet Bunnies: Let’s Dance and Ballet Bunnies: Millie’s Birthday will now be published in September 2020.

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear will now be published in May 2021.

Torn Apart: The Partition of India will now be published in August 2021.

Thank you so much for your patience and don’t worry, this pandemic definitely hasn’t stopped me working hard on my next book!

Keep safe and happy reading.

Love Swapna

Meet Dapo Adeola

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This week should have marked the launch of my debut picturebook ‘My Dad is a Grizzly Bear‘, illustrated by Dapo Adeola.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the book will now be published in May 2021 instead. Don’t worry, you can still preorder the book but in the meantime I am posting my interview with Dapo so you can get to know him ahead of our beartastic launch next year.

S: Hi, Dapo! Thank you so much for joining me here on my blog. Tell us a bit about how you got into children’s book illustration?

D: My journey here was a bit of a long winded one but I’ll try and sum it up for this in a few sentences. After failing a graphic design degree at uni and working in retail and sales for a bit I decided to take a chance and go part time at work and dedicate my spare time to teaching myself illustration and character design. Ten years, several online courses, art fairs, low paying commissions and social media posts later I found myself in an agent’s office pitching some designs I’d done for a picture book my friend Nathan and I were putting together. I signed with the agency, our book got taken to the Bologna Book Fair and everything went bananas and that’s the short version of how my career began. I had no intention of being at this point so soon but I decided to rise to the challenge and see how far this road takes me. So far, so good.

S: How did you get involved in the My Dad is Grizzly Bear project?

D: After deciding to go with Penguin/Puffin on my first picture book series it meant that several of the other publishers who’d made us an offer still wanted to work with me, so early the following year I found myself flooded with various texts from publishers for picture books they wanted me to illustrate. Amongst these were two texts from you! Let’s just say it was a wrap the minute I started reading them! Your texts were so witty and fun and warm at the same time, it was an absolute no brainer to me that this was the text I wanted to illustrate next. 

S: I’m so pleased you enjoyed the Grizzly Bear series. I’m thrilled with how the first book is looking and I can’t wait to see what you do with the second. What do you love illustrating the most?

D: My fave things to draw are children and (large) animals; I love the contrast in size when they’re both on a page together. Which also makes My Dad is a Grizzly Bear the perfect book for me. I’m a huge fan of imaginative texts too, texts that allow room for fantasy and inventiveness when drawing. I’m not so keen on very domestic stories to be honest.

S: As an illustrator who has worked with several writers now, do you have any advice for writers working with illustrators? 

D: Writers need to try and understand the illustration process and the parallels it has with their own process because illustrators are storytellers too. I’ve only been a professional illustrator for a short while, but I’ve been a storyteller all my adult life. And, as such, one of the first things I picked up on in this industry is that despite the evidence put forward in their work (especially when it comes to picture books), illustrators almost aren’t seen as storytellers in their own right. There’s a weird sort of space we’re supposed to occupy that lies somewhere between “magician” and “pencil for hire” as we’re expected to create almost on a whim and draw what we’re given text wise. This isn’t how it works in reality as a picture book takes 6-8 months on average for an illustrator to do, and longer if the text is a tricky one. Truly understanding that it’s a collaborative process involving two storytellers and being open to all the change that might come with that goes a long way towards getting the best work from your illustrators and ultimately the best book out of both of you.

Thank you so much to Dapo for joining me on my blog. We can’t wait for you to meet our grizzly bear and his family next year.

Dapo Adeola is an illustrator and designer who creates characters and images that challenge gender norms in a fun and upbeat way. He is the co-creator and illustrator of the upcoming Penguin Random House picture book series Look Up and illustrator of The Last Last Day of Summer. London born and bred but of Nigerian heritage, when he’s not busy cooking up new characters and adventures you can find him running illustration and character design workshops in and out of schools, to help highlight the possibilities of a career in illustration to inner-city children. You can follow Dapo Adeola’s work on Instagram.

The Book of Hopes

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I’m so honoured to be part of Katherine Rundell’s new collection of poems, stories and art called ‘The Book of Hopes: Words and Pictures to Comfort, Inspire and Entertain Children in Lockdown‘.

Completely free for all children and families, the extraordinary collection edited by Katherine Rundell, features stories, poems, essays and pictures and has contributions from more than 110 children’s writers and illustrators, including Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz, Greg James and Chris Smith, Michael Morpurgo, Liz Pichon, Axel Scheffler, Francesca Simon, Jacqueline Wilson, Swapna Haddow – and Katherine herself.

You can read Katherine’s article and her inspiration behind the collection in The Guardian here.

Here is my poem from the collection:

You can have a go at writing your own ‘Me’ poem using this template.

The Book of Hopes collection, published by Bloomsbury, and hosted by the National Literacy Trust is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone currently working tirelessly in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introducing the Ballet Bunnies

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I’m so pleased to be introducing you all to my brand new young fiction series ‘Ballet Bunnies‘.

Created in-house by the team at Oxford University Press Children’s Books and editor Debbie Sims, illustrated by the brilliant Binny Talib, designed by Sarah Darby and Holly Fulbrook and written by me, ‘Ballet Bunnies‘ follows Millie on her adventures at her ballet school where she meets four dancing bunnies. The stories are about friendship, kindness and finding your inner courage.

Binny Talib is a Sydney based illustrator who loves to create wallpaper, branding, childrens books, editorial, packaging and anything else she can draw all over. Binny’s illustration career has flowed on from a design background as an agency Art Director and Creative Director, she has an honours degree in Visual Communications. Her most recent books are ‘The Ladybird Big Book of Dead Things’, ‘Two Sides’, ‘Hark, it’s me Ruby Lee’ and ‘Origami Heart’. Binny was short listed for the Prime Minister’s Literary award and received an Honour from the Children’s Book Council for her book with Lisa Shananhan, ‘Hark it’s me Ruby Lee’.

Binny now works happily on beautiful Sydney harbour with other lovely creative folks drinking copious amounts of dandelion tea and is inspired by Jasper her rescue cat. 

This was the first time I got to work with Binny but I have been a huge fan of her work for a long time. I invited her on to my blog for a little interview so we could all get to know her better.

S: Hi Binny! Thank you so much for joining me here on my blog. Tell us a bit about how you got into children’s book illustration?

B: Hello! I Started out studying Architecture, and then studied Visual Communications, majoring in design, film and Illustration. When I graduated I was a designer for many years, and a Creative director, and I consistently included lots of illustrations in my design work. Eventually I started getting illustration work. This lead to getting an agent in New York, I was then lucky enough to get some book picture projects.

I had also done some illustration chapter books at home in Australia from publishers approaching me after seeing my portfolio.

S: How did you get involved in the Ballet Bunnies project?

My wonderful Agency, Bright came to me with the project. What’s not to love ballets doing ballet! 

S: What do you love illustrating the most?

I honestly love rabbits! But any cute animals in general. I love to anthropomorphise them and create little personalities.

S: What’s coming next from Binny Talib?

I have another wonderful fun book coming out with Ladybird in the UK (I can’t mention its name yet!) They have been a joy to work with. Also this year 

I have some exciting stationery projects. 

S: As an illustrator who has worked with many writers, do you have any advice for writers working with illustrators? 

It’s my favourite when the writer trusts the illustrator to create their vision. It’s such an honour to bring writers characters to life and create their world. I always get a bit nervous when I know the publisher is showing the writer my work for the first time, I always hope they are pleased with my interpretation.

Some authors notes may be helpful if the writing context is abstract, but I think it’s important to make them brief and not be too prescriptive as you want the illustrator to really run with all the amazing possibilities of turning your writing into visuals. It’s a good idea to know the process of working with an illustrator through the publisher before.

You can find out more about Binny and her books here.

We’ve just had our first review in for Ballet Bunnies: The New Class from V’s View from the Bookshelves and it’s gone down a storm! Have a read of the review here. Thank you, Veronica!

Whilst you wait for the book to arrive in your local bookshop and library, have a go at the Ballet Bunnies activities waiting for you in ‘Fun Stuff‘ area. See if you can make a matchbox bed for the little bunnies just like I did: