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Panda at the Door

Panda at the Door

Published: 6 May 2021

Paperback / softback, 192 pages

Recommended for age 7+

By Sarah Horne

Illustrated by Sarah Horne

Published by Chicken House Ltd

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Callum misses his Dad. He doesn't call on his birthday, and worse, the present he chooses for Cal is ... weird. It's a panda at Edinburgh Zoo. How can Cal 'adopt' a wild animal? And what he doesn't expect is for the bear to take charge. Tired of doing roly-polys for the public, Pudding wants to help a child who needs her ...

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Reviewed by Jane Atkin

Panda At the Door: A little book to make you think, smile and want your own Panda.

Pudding, the Panda, desperately wants to be needed and loved. She has Mary Poppins as a role model, thanks to Gerald her keeper, who thought she’d like the company of the DVD in her cage at Edinburgh Zoo. Meanwhile, on his ninth birthday, Callum gets given an adoption certificate for a panda at Edinburgh Zoo, with instructions on how to email if there are any questions. Callum certainly has questions; primarily, where are all his birthday presents and more importantly, where has Dad gone to get some bacon?

Sarah Horne (whose illustrative style you may recognise from the Charlie Changes…series), has written and illustrated this story, from an original idea by Vikki Anderson through the Big Idea Competition. She has produced a beautifully put together book with an engaging story and lovely pictures. The character of Callum is written so that you feel his anxieties and worries about his parent’s relationship and where Dad could be. Pudding arriving at the family home just at the right time to intervene between Callum and his sister Tabitha is nicely observed, with lots of quotes from Mary Poppins – wanting to give Mum a spoonful of sugar. Callum also has problems with Mike Spiker, a bully who lives across the road from him, and who makes his life miserable at school. He misses his best friend, who has moved away – life certainly does feel grim for Callum, and Sarah Horne addresses all these issues well without being patronising.

I particularly enjoyed the characters who were very obviously Scots, and could hear them speaking in my head as I read. Gerald, the zoo keeper and Spud Spiker might need some translating for Southern softies! Panda At the Door would sit well in a lower key stage two classroom, and although it stands alone nicely, it could also fit in well with topics on animal welfare, zoos and preservation of species as well as PSHE topics such as relationships, bullying and anxiety.

I am a Year 6 teacher in a Wandsworth Primary School and have a wealth of experience across key stage 2. Although I lead on science and PSHE at my school, I have always had a keen interest in children's literature. I love reading aloud to children and I would hope that there are hundreds of my ex pupils who will remember me for being mad about all things purple and for loving books. When I'm not reading I can be found either coaxing things to grow, creating knitted stuff or going to see live music. I also wear quirky jewellery!