Dave Pigeon by Swapna Haddow


A pigeon’s view on How to Deal with Bad Cats and Keep (most of) Your Feathers that will have young readers giggling throughout.

The tag line on the cover of Dave Pigeon probably sums this story up. It’s about How to Deal with Bad Cats and Keep (most of) Your Feathers. Or, if you want a bit more, it’s about two Pigeons – Dave and his trusty friend Skipper – who are unceremoniously attacked by a cat while on a routine croissant heist. Dave’s wing is injured so he and Skipper set out to get their own back at the vicious cat. They plan to evict Mean Cat from his home and install themselves in his place with the kind Human Lady and her enviable supply of biscuits. You won’t be surprised that things don’t go exactly to plan.

If you can’t tell this is going to be a funny book from the summary, you’ll certainly know the moment you open the book and read Dave’s opening message: If you can read this, you obviously understand Pigeonese. You may carry on reading my book. Turn the page and you’ll find Dave and Skipper bickering about how to tell the story with their words set out in speech bubbles.

Children will, undoubtedly, love this unusual approach which will have them giggling throughout, if not laughing out loud. And it gets better as the book progresses with Dave coming up with, then crossing out, the titles of their various plans. For example, ‘The Plan where we used our hardest stares to scare away Mean Cat and which I, Dave Pigeon, call The Staring Plan.’

There is still a good chunk of traditional narration with Skipper telling the story with just the occasional interruption from Dave. Skipper’s personality shines through and it’s great fun viewing the world from a pigeon’s perspective.

The plot is strong with Dave coming up with increasingly ludicrous ideas to oust Mean Cat from Human Lady’s house. My personal favourite is when Dave and Skipper try blowing up balloons in order to implement their ‘Flying Cat Plan’. Given they have only wings and beaks to do this, I’ll leave you to imagine the disastrous consequences.

The climax is clever – Dave and Skipper finally get rid of Mean Cat only to find his absence has created a far bigger problem. However, if there’s one negative, the book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger and young readers will have to wait for the next instalment to find out what’s going to happen next.

While the ideas are great and the writing top quality, what really lifts this book above the crowd are the illustrations by Sheena Dempsey. There are far too many wonderful drawings to mention but I was particularly impressed by the expressiveness in the eyes of all the characters. The layout is also inspired. For example, on pages 48 – 58 we have four double page spreads of Dave and Skipper waiting for it to rain which alone make this book worth buying.

If you loved this, you’ll probably enjoy Creature Teacher by Sam Watkins or for another book with wonderful illustrations try Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.

ISBN: 978-0571323302
Publication Date: April 2016
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Pages: 160
Author: Swapna Haddow


Review first published on The Bookbag

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