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Bad Panda: The Cake Escape

Authored by Swapna Haddow
Illustrated by Sheena Dempsey
Published by Faber & Faber

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The first word in this book is Splat! which augurs well for a lively read. The animals in the zoo are having a ‘Fling a Mouldy Banana Furthest’ contest. It does not take readers long to realise that this is no ordinary zoo. This zoo is run by the animals with Lin, the actual bad panda, in charge. The plot involves the kidnapping of Lin’s friend, Fu, by a dangerous predator (8-year-old taxidermist, Billion McDingle-Waddington). With the help of Malo (a capuchin monkey), and Small Raccoon (a small raccoon), Lin sets off to rescue her friend. But there are plenty of complicated situations to overcome before Fu is liberated.

The Cake Escape is the second book in an on-going series of Bad Panda stories. The first book was enjoyed by children and adults alike. It looks likely that the series will provide plenty of laughs as well as offering young readers an engaging read. Books like these are an asset to any primary classroom, particularly for newly independent readers. The text reads aloud really well; listening will support the less confident readers in adopting their own internal voices for each character. It is important to be aware how much meaning is provided by Sheena Dempsey’s splendid illustrations, especially the facial expressions which show, rather than tell, how characters are feeling.

I suspect sharing this story with a class would be a bonding experience. I love this book for so many reasons. Obviously, the slapstick wit (including poo jokes) running through the text but also: six pages of amazing lyrics to a popular panda song (so we can all join in); the delightful pictures and other graphic elements of the storytelling; the insightful characterisation of leadership. (Are you listening Lin and Liony?) and the salute to George Orwell’s Animal Farm at the end of the tale. All in all, if you appreciate the jokes, I urge you to share it with children.