Reading Rocks x Dave Pigeon (Kittens!)

Swapna HaddowRoosting With Dave

Thank you so much to Heather, Sian and Team Reading Rocks for hosting my Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) event today.

We had a whole bunch of classes join in to hear me read from the book and create their very own Dave Pigeon story plans. We had ideas about gluestick heroes saving everyone from scissors and ideas inspired by evil pumpkins, handy lanterns and candlelit caves too!

Thank you to all the brilliant pupils and teachers who tuned in and your fantastic questions at the end of the session. I hope you all use your story plans to create new stories.

Little Dinosaurs, Big Feelings in The Bookseller!

Swapna HaddowRoarsome News

Little Dinosaurs, Big Feelings by me, Yiting Lee, Amber Owens publishes in January 2024 with Magic Cat Publishing and I’m so excited for you to meet Dr Diplo and his dino friends: Steggie the Angry Dinosaur, Rex the Scared Dinosaur, Bruno the Sad Dinosaur, Minka the Happy Dinosaur, Poppy the Lonely Dinosaur, Percy the Shy Dinosaur, Terrie the Excited Dinosaur, Trev the Overwhelmed Dinosaur, Iggy the Bored Dinosaur and Nino the Content Dinosaur.

You’ll get to read their stories in this cute graphic novel style, full-colour guide on emotions and feelings for children aged 5 and older and discover how to navigate different emotions with simple mindfulness tools and exercises. 

And Little Dinosaurs, Big Feelings has it’s very first review in The Bookseller no less! I’m chuffed to bits with this review. Have a read below:

Keep an eye out for the book next year, Readers!

My top tips for chairing a festival event 

Swapna HaddowHalfway Round the World with the Haddows, Scrapbook

This weekend was the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival. The theme of the festival was ‘a moment that marks the beginning of a journey, to the place where the river meets the sea – Te Pūao’ and the incredible star-studded line up of writers, illustrators and creatives included Witi Ihimaera, Fiona Farrell, Jacinta Ruru, Stacey Morrison, Ruth Paul, Susan Wardell, Michaela Keeble and Tokerau Brown, Barbara Else, Emily Writes, Coco Solid and so many, many more.

This year I was not in the role of author but instead MC for the Pakiwaitara Children’s Storytime sessions. It is not my usual role but I learnt heaps on the job and here are my top tips for hosting the children’s sessions of a festival:

  1. Get to know your guests and their books. This is the fun part. I had a good read of all my guests books ahead of the festival and it was an utter treat to put time into my schedule just to read and call it work! I also reached out to all the authors and illustrators to find out more about what they planned for their events and if they had specific introductions they wanted from me. Not everyone will get back to you and when they do they may not answer all the questions you have because they themselves have not yet figured it out, (being on the other side of these events as an author – I totally understood this), so my tip top toppy tip is do your research anyway for biographies and then adjust if your hear back.
  2. Be ready for any number of guests and any age group and have a team to support you so if you run into technical hiccups or a lack of paper for craft activities you can get help!
  3. Attendees are here to see your guests and not to see you so keep those intros short and make sure the spotlight is entirely on your guests.

Susan Wardell reading The Lighthouse Princess

Ruth Paul making jellyfish

Michaela Keeble, Tokerau Brown and me

I also got to chair an adult event this year which I was quite nervous about. Though I have attended many book events from grown ups and even presented at a couple of writing workshops and talks, I have to admit my forte is very much seven-year-olds and fart jokes. But I’m glad I did it and I’ve added another string to my bow. Here are my top tips for chairing book events for grown ups. Guess what? They aren’t that different from my top tips for children’s events!:

  1. Be prepared. Read the book, learn about your guests, and reach out. They will be just as nervous as you (probably) and will want to work closely to make sure questions and topics run seemlessly throughout the conversation and that you don’t ask things they may make someone uncomfortable.
  2. Find out if they would like to do a reading. The audience loves this but it’s best not to assume that the author is comfortable to read. Making sure everyone is happy and comfortable will ensure a great event.
  3. If the chair set up feels too formal, it’s OK to change it up! Again, you want everyone, including yourself, to feel comfortable becasue it is nerve-wracking to have all eyes on you.
  4. Have questions and topics to keep the conversation flowing, especially if the audience doesn’t step up with questions. Be ready to fill in the silence.

Barbara Else, Emily Writes and me

And my final top tip for ALL events is to say THANK YOU. There is a team always working behind the scenes to help you so remember to remind them that they are awesome.

Grizzly Pigeons meet Rotherham Loves Reading

Swapna HaddowPawsome News, Roosting With Dave

Today, I joined Team Rotherham Loves Reading for not one but TWO events!

First up I met with EYFS and Key Stage 1 for a reading of My Dad is a Grizzly Bear and we all created our very own grizzly bears. Then I met with Key Stage 2 for some Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) fun where we created brand new story ideas and plans. We heard about dentists and Roman armies and snot worlds and pirate ships.

Thank you so much to all the classes who joined me today – I can’t wait to read your stories and see your bears.

Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) x The Reading Agency

Swapna HaddowRoosting With Dave

Thank you so much to the whopping 105 classes and homeschoolers who joined me for my Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) story-planning workshop with The Reading Agency.

We created heaps of new story plans including stories about warring pens and pencils, stories about dogs who want to go to magical schools and stories about books that can fly. I can’t wait to read the resulting novels based on all the incredible story plans I heard today.

Letter to Brandywine Community Schools 

Swapna HaddowBallet Class in Session, Scrapbook

I’m heartbroken to hear that the Ballet Bunnies series and other incredible books from a Books Saves Lives grant have been blocked from student access in Niles, Michigan. The Ballet Bunnies series is about a girl who is kind and courageous and is everything those who ban books are not.

We Need Diverse Books have urged the school board to reconsider and release the books that were selected by district educators in a letter that was co-signed by me and more than seventy-five authors. You can read more about this on the We Need Diverse Books blog.

The full text of the letter is below: 

Dear Superintendent Walker and Brandywine Community Schools Board Members: 

We Need Diverse Books established the Books Save Lives Grant to enrich school libraries by providing diverse books to their students, like the ones attending Brandywine Middle/High School, Brandywine Elementary School, and Merritt Elementary School. At WNDB, we recognize that there is power in diverse literature to challenge us, enlighten us, and develop critical thinking skills in all of us—especially for young readers who are the future of our nation. 

Further, studies show that reading diverse books can spur literacy rates and build empathy. For example, a Washington & Lee study demonstrated that bias toward the Muslim community decreased after participants read a 3,000-word excerpt of the novel Saffron Dreams by Pakistani-American author Shaila Abdullah, as detailed in the article Changing Race Boundary Perception by Reading Narrative Fiction by psychology researcher Dr. Dan R. Johnson. This is another reason why WNDB strives to diversify school bookshelves nationwide — because we believe that all readers should have access to books that expand the world around them. 

Our team selected Brandywine Middle/High School as an inaugural recipient of the Books Save Lives Grant based on the strength of Abilyn Janke’s application and on her commitment to making the bookshelves at her school more diverse and inclusive. Ms. Janke made a clear case for Brandywine to receive the grant, including: 

  • Showing a deep conviction to help students feel welcome in the library by seeing themselves represented. According to the application, 16% of Niles’ residents identify as Black, Native, Hispanic, Asian, or Multiracial; and 24% of students in Berrien County identify as being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • Utilizing diverse books to provide a wider view of the world and to build empathy in all readers, which aligns with the goals of We Need Diverse Books. 
  • Demonstrating a need for this grant due to the current issues within the school district concerning library books. In February 2023, your board voted to halt the new inventory of books and create an“Explicit Material Book Review Committee” to assess titles currently available to students. And yet the district already has a review process in place, overseen by media specialists who must follow professional protocols. 

WNDB shares PEN America’s assessment that school book bans can take varied formsThey may occur when school boards, administrators, or politicians override the book selections made by educators and remove titles from shelves. They may be temporary in nature, and they may include a range of restrictions on what students can and cannot read. There have been restrictions on shelving new books in your libraries since February, and the recent halt in circulation of the Books Save Lives Grant further infringes upon your students’ freedom to read. 

On April 20, 2023, WNDB notified Debbie Carew that Brandywine Middle/High School had been selected as a grant recipient. We also agreed with her follow-up request to apportion $3000 of the $5000 grant to provide new titles for the district’s elementary schools. Then in August, we shipped 193 titles, which were selected by district educators, to Michigan. These books have since been inventoried, but haven’t been made available to students due to your board’s decision to halt circulation. We are greatly concerned about this action as it prevents your students from reading inclusive and diverse texts. Students within your own district have distributed flyers at your board meetings, stating: 

“We want to see the LGBTQIA+ community supported, we want to not see books banned in the library, and most importantly we want to protect our rights as 21st century learners.” 

WNDB stands with your students who are expressing their freedom of speech and fighting against educational censorship.  We call upon the board to provide us with: 

  • Detailing the review process and criteria that are being used to assess the books provided by the Books Save Lives Grant. Include a deadline as to when the book assessments will be completed and when the books will be placed into circulation.
  • Explaining why the Books Save Lives Grant is facing additional scrutiny while other grants received within your district are not under such investigations. For instance, Ms. Janke has received another grant from the Daughters of the American Revolution; and two teachers at Brandywine Elementary were recently awarded a grant from Midwest Energy and Communications. Similarly, teachers throughout your district have received funding via to fund STEAM and music projects. We laud your educators who are applying for and utilizing these grants for your students’ enrichment, which is exactly what the Books Save Lives Grant was established to accomplish. Why then is the board investigating the Books Save Lives Grant and not others? 

Along with the undersigned authors, illustrators, and publishers, We Need Diverse Books is asking the board to remove the obstruction of the Books Save Lives Grant books and circulate the titles amongst the Brandywine student population. We also ask that you cancel the investigation into Ms. Janke’s grant application, which will divert precious funds from your district’s budget. Instead, the board should direct this money into further enriching your students’ bookshelves. 

Reading remains a vital gateway for students to learn about our greater world. Your educators have spent years developing the pedagogy and expertise needed to select books that help school children develop critical thinking skills and a love of reading. Trust and support these trained teachers and librarians who are tireless advocates of your students. 


Ellen Oh, WNDB CEO & Founding Member
Dhonielle Clayton, WNDB COO
Caroline Richmond, WNDB Executive Director

Authors & Illustrators
Elizabeth Acevedo
Jane Bahk
Leigh Bardugo
V.T. Bidania
Ashley Herring Blake
Angeline Boulley
Geneva Bowers
Marina Budhos
Tami Charles
Traci Chee
Charlene Chua
Dhonielle Clayton
Art Coulson
Jerry Craft
Julie C. Dao
Christine Day
Jennifer de Leon
Angela Dominguez
Natasha Donovan
Margarita Engle
Debbi Michiko Florence
Gregor Forster
Nicole Geiger
Alex Gino
Laurel Goodluck
Nikki Grimes
Vashti Harrison
Felicia Hoshino
Justina Ireland
Tiffany D. Jackson
Terry Catasús Jennings
Supriya Kelkar
Erin Entrada Kelly
Rukhsana Khan
Brendan Kiely
Grace Lin
Carole Lindstrom
Darcie Little Badger
Rafael Lopez
Kelly Starling Lyons
Tahereh Mafi
Kekla Magoon
Crystal Maldonaldo
Racquel Marie
Juana Martinez-Neal
Niña Mata
Anna-Marie McLemore
Juana Medina
Oge Mora
Marieke Njikamp
Daniel José Older
Tochi Onyebuchi
Mark Oshiro
Natalie C. Parker
Sanjay Patel
Caroline Kusin Pritchard
Swapna Reddy
Randy Ribay
Andrea L. Rogers
Eden Royce
Aisha Saeed
A. J. Sass
Sebastià Serra
Charlotte Watson Sherman
Cynthia Leitich Smith
Sabaa Tahir
Binny Talib
Susan Tan
Shveta Thakrar
Aiden Thomas
Jasmine Warga
Renée Watson
Dana Wulfekotte
Hyewon Yum
Kat Zhang

Rosemary Brosnan, VP and Publisher, Quill Tree Books/Heartdrum, Imprints of HarperCollins Children’s Books
Arthur Levine, President and Editor-in-Chief, Levine Querido
Jason Low, Publisher and Co-Owner, Lee & Low Books

Thank you to all the students, teachers, librarians and allies who continue to fight book bans all over the world. Kids deserve a diverse range of books and every child deserves to see themselves in the pages of a book.

Find out what you can do to fight book bans here.

Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) is out today!

Swapna HaddowRoosting With Dave

It’s Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) Day! Dave and best friend Skipper are back with their fifth book in the series, (or fifth and a half if you managed to nab a copy of Dave Pigeon (Bookshop Mayhem!) this World Book Day for your Dave Pigeon collection), and I’m so happy to be back in the world of sheds and biscuits and Mean Cat with these two pigeon pals.

So keep an eye on bookshelves of libraries, bookshops, homes and schools everywhere today and let me know if you spot Dave Pigeon (Kittens!) out in the wild because I would love to know where he’s roosting.

Happy reading, you pigeontastic readers!

Library Day at Otago Girls High School

Swapna HaddowHalfway Round the World with the Haddows, Scrapbook

I was invited to be part of Otago Girls High School’s Library Day this year. The event has been running for an incredible 86 years so I was really chuffed to be part of the celebrations. This year the theme was ‘Childhood Nostalgia’ and everyone got dressed up for the occasion. There was a Miss Piggy, a couple of Grus, several Cats in Hats and a whole fleet of Mario Brothers. I went as Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I spoke to the pupils and staff about the books I read as a child and who I am as a writer now. They asked about coming up with ideas and my career highlights and honestly, for the first time in a while, I actually thought about my career over the last eight and half years and I can’t quite believe all the incredible things I’ve had an opportunity to do.

So thank you readers, booksellers, bloggers, teachers and librarians for being so supportive of me and my books – I hope I keep getting the chance to write stories for you all.

Ask me anything at Columba College

Swapna HaddowHalfway Round the World with the Haddows, Scrapbook

Today, I joined Years 5 to 8 at Columba College as part of their Book Week. I told them all about the books I read as a child and what reading meant to me and ultimately how my experiences with books impacted my writing journey.

The pupils asked me heaps of questions about writing, publishing and how to stay motivated when you reach the middle of your story.

I then got to me with the lunchtime writing club and was blown away by the talented writers and illustrators I met. I predict big things for these young creators!

Thank you so much to the staff and pupils at Columba College for letting me be part of your awesome Book Week.