Comic Boom - Comics in Education

Comic Boom - Comics in Education with writer Swapna Reddy

July 10, 2024 Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Swapna Reddy Season 5 Episode 5
Comic Boom - Comics in Education with writer Swapna Reddy
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
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Comic Boom - Comics in Education
Comic Boom - Comics in Education with writer Swapna Reddy
Jul 10, 2024 Season 5 Episode 5
Lucy Starbuck Braidley/Swapna Reddy

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode Lucy talks to writer Swapna Reddy (who you may know as Swapna Haddow!).

Swapna Haddow is the multi award-winning children’s author of the Dave Pigeon
series, published by Faber & Faber. The Dave Pigeon series has received rave reviews since first publishing in 2016 and went on to win three regional awards in the UK and was shortlisted for the prestigious Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award.
Swapna loves to write about boisterous animals that cause mayhem and is working with Faber & Faber, Magic Cat, Scholastic, Oxford University Press and Macmillan to make sure mean cats, grizzly bears and big-hearted little rabbits find their place on the bookshelves. Friendship and humour are always at the heart of what she loves to write.

Swapna also writes for Oxford University Press, under the pseudonym ‘Swapna
Reddy’ and comes on the podcast to talk about he new comic-prose hybrid for younger readers Reggie Rabbit and the Great Carrot Heist illustrated by Becca Moore.

Swapna's recommendations
Big Little Blue by Raymond McGrath
The Black Sand Beach Series by Richard Fairgray
Tulip and Doug by Emma Wood
Granny McFlitter by Heather Haylock

Lucy's Recommendation
Narwhal and Jelly Series by Ben Clanton

This episode of Comic Boom is sponsored by ALCS, The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.
The ALCS Carnegie Awards resources highlighted in the episode can be found here.

Connect with Swapna via her website.

Follow the podcast:
Insta:
@comic_boom_podcast
Twitter/X:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com
Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode Lucy talks to writer Swapna Reddy (who you may know as Swapna Haddow!).

Swapna Haddow is the multi award-winning children’s author of the Dave Pigeon
series, published by Faber & Faber. The Dave Pigeon series has received rave reviews since first publishing in 2016 and went on to win three regional awards in the UK and was shortlisted for the prestigious Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award.
Swapna loves to write about boisterous animals that cause mayhem and is working with Faber & Faber, Magic Cat, Scholastic, Oxford University Press and Macmillan to make sure mean cats, grizzly bears and big-hearted little rabbits find their place on the bookshelves. Friendship and humour are always at the heart of what she loves to write.

Swapna also writes for Oxford University Press, under the pseudonym ‘Swapna
Reddy’ and comes on the podcast to talk about he new comic-prose hybrid for younger readers Reggie Rabbit and the Great Carrot Heist illustrated by Becca Moore.

Swapna's recommendations
Big Little Blue by Raymond McGrath
The Black Sand Beach Series by Richard Fairgray
Tulip and Doug by Emma Wood
Granny McFlitter by Heather Haylock

Lucy's Recommendation
Narwhal and Jelly Series by Ben Clanton

This episode of Comic Boom is sponsored by ALCS, The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.
The ALCS Carnegie Awards resources highlighted in the episode can be found here.

Connect with Swapna via her website.

Follow the podcast:
Insta:
@comic_boom_podcast
Twitter/X:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com
Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Hello, and welcome to comic boom, the comics and education podcast. If you're interested in hearing more about the crossover between comics and education, then this is the podcast for you. My name is Lucy. Starbuck Braidley. And each week I'll be joined by a fellow educator and academic, a librarian or a creator of comics to discuss their journey into comics and provide some inspiration to influence your practice. And hopefully shine some light on some titles that you can bring into your libraries, classrooms and on your bookshelves at home too. This episode of comic, boom is sponsored by ALCS the authors licensing and collecting society. And today's guest is Swapna. Haddow also known as Swapna Reddy, when she writes for Oxford university, press. You may know, Swapna enough from her award-winning title, Dave pigeon the series that was published by Faber and Faber. And she's here to talk to me today about a new title that she's got coming out, Reggie rabbit and the great carrot heist. It's a brilliant book. Another one of those it's a bit like we discussed last week, a combination of pros. And comics panels this time for much younger readers. So something that's much more. Accessible and for children just moving on to making independent choices when they're reading. And being able to access a wide range, maybe just dipping their toes into comics, reading for the first time, maybe dipping their toes into. To chapter books for the first time you can come at this from all angles and, but it's a really lovely story. Most kind of noir vibes about it. So lots to talk about really loved hearing about Swapna's history with comics. Lots of takeouts from this episode, Swapna, there was very open about her writing practices, how the book ideas came about. And it was just a really interesting insight, I think, into. A different site of publishing. and a great book to talk about as well. Here's what Swapna, I had to say. Hello Swapna. Welcome

Lucy SB:

to comic boom.

Swapna:

Hi, thanks so much for having me.

Lucy SB:

You are absolutely welcome. I'm really looking forward to talking to you today about your journey into comics, about your writing, and also about, your new title that we're going to talk about in more detail later on. So, first of all can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a comics reader? I don't know, I know you've produced lots of books of different types, so I don't know if comics is something that you're interested in. interested in and have been a reader of, what can you tell us?

Swapna:

Yeah, I've had quite a few of them in my life but I I do remember being about I think probably five or six years old When I first kind of got introduced to comics, so, we would go on holiday every year to India so that my parents could go back home and, and see family. unfortunately, when they, when they had us in the UK, they decided to fully integrate us into the British lifestyle. We weren't really taught our mother tongue. so we went home to, to, India and would not be able to communicate with anyone. And then we were properly tourists over there. We just got completely attacked by mosquitoes and just, yeah, it was, it was really not great for us. And so whilst we couldn't. Communicate with anyone and we couldn't really, you know, have a good time covered in mosquito bites and, and other things. we were introduced to a series called Amar Chitra Kata, which is a comic series in, in India, which kind of covers everything from Indian history to Indian mythology and Hindu stories and things like that. And that is basically where my love of comics grew. So we would go over there and we would just buy like bag fulls of these things because you could get them for like, you know, 10 pence or something. I think one of the shops they gave us free bubblegum with it as well, which was amazing. so, I'm Amar Chitra Kathar. Comics and also, I definitely had a bit of an obsession with the Archie and Jughead comics. I don't know if they had them in the UK, but they definitely had them in India. And they were in English, so we could read them and we could understand them.

Lucy SB:

We had a guest on before right early in our first season, who was Indian and she did, she didn't mention the first comic you talked about, but she definitely spoke about Archie comics being part of her journey into reading comics. So that one is familiar to me, although I've never read them and I haven't seen

Swapna:

Yeah, they were huge.

Lucy SB:

That's so interesting.

Swapna:

They were huge over there. It's so, yeah, I don't know why. but they were brilliant and I really loved them and they were really funny as well. and so we would basically take home these big duffel bags of comics and then read over them for the whole year until the next trip to India to restock. so yeah, it was, it's always been a huge part of my And, um, because I was quite young when I sort of first came across books, I wasn't really reading the words I was reading the pictures. So comics were an amazing way to sort of get into the action of a, of a book because they were like small movies, aren't they? So they, it was amazing for me and it probably gave me the confidence to learn the words and, you know, start reading them properly. And even now they're like a huge part of my life. I have a son, he's a massive Marvel fan, massive DC fan. and so yeah, graphic novels kind of, you know, took over. Um, I'm really loving things by, Philippa Rice, Sisters, Sister BFFs is one of my favorite kind of grown up graphic novels.

Lucy SB:

I've not read it.

Swapna:

oh, it's brilliant. It's just, oh, if you have sisters as well, it's brilliant. Um, you don't have to have sisters to read it though, the disclaimer. but, yeah, just amazing. I think we're, we're in a very special age for comics and graphic novels at the moment. So, um, there's loads, loads out there.

Lucy SB:

I completely agree. So I was going to ask you next actually about more generally, not specifically about comics necessarily, but children's literature in general. I know that, you know, you've, you've produced lots of different formats of books and you write quite broadly across children's literature. so yeah, what's out there at the moment that you're particularly enjoying reading? Because there's a lot of teachers, a lot of librarians listening to this who love a good recommendation. yeah, so really interested to know what's on your radar at the

Swapna:

Oh Gosh, so many things so many brilliant things at the moment i'm absolutely loving anything by nadia shireen. I'm kind of obsessed with her

Lucy SB:

She's also a super nice person. I've met her through my work at NLT, as well. She's very lovely.

Swapna:

She's just brilliant, isn't she? She's just, she completely taps into funny and, you know, has kids of all ages just howling. I mean, I love her books and I'm, I'm a massively old kid at this point. So, Anything and everything by Jamie Smart also is a winner for me. actually anything created by contributors to the Phoenix magazine is just brilliant. Again, it's funny. Anything that makes me laugh is what draws me in. So those are the kinds of things that I'm really enjoying right now. I think especially right now, it's not the best time in the real world. So I need the escape. I need the funny, I need the things that just kind of take me away from stuff. So those are my favorite things at the moment. There's so many brilliant, Authors and illustrators putting out incredible books at the moment. So I'm really enjoying anything that's making me laugh.

Lucy SB:

yeah, that's a really good shout, I think, and sometimes, especially within the world of education, it can, the funny books can be the things that sort of missed out a little bit and, and there's such power to get children reading and get them hooked in, with that humour.

Swapna:

Oh yeah, a hundred percent. I do, I do think there's a point at which, you know, kids go from picture books and enjoying the brilliance of picture books to, you know, kind of reading scheme books. And then we have this point where we may. Lose them or we can keep them. And that I think funny books is so brilliant for that. and if you can, if you can get them hooked on something or get them laughing, you just, those kinds of moments where like, especially shared laughter, like in a classroom or, you know, a carer and a child, it's just magic. I remember those books. I, I, and I remember the books that, you know, I've read with my child, but also that I read as a child with my, that we read, read to as children from our teacher. And it was, yeah, you don't forget those moments or those books.

Lucy SB:

Yeah, with my work at National Literacy Trust, we do, teacher training around reading for pleasure. And one of the things we get people to think about is a memory they associate with being a reader. And it, it's so often. not just the book, it's the book and the time and the place and that whole experience that makes that memory for people. yeah, I think that that piece about shared laughter is, yeah, definitely one of those aspects that can, it can be the thing that people then carry with them and make them think, oh yeah, I'm a reader. Yeah, that kind of self perception.

Swapna:

Yeah, yeah, 100%.

Lucy SB:

I know that that you've had not a direct route to becoming a writer. So can you tell us a little bit about your journey towards your current career?

Swapna:

Yeah. So I guess, um, I mean, where did it start really? Writing has just always been a part of my life. books have always been a part of my life. My mum. to use the library as a babysitter. Um, and so she would drop us off, me and my sisters at a very early time in the morning on Saturday, then come and get us in the evening. And I don't know what she got up to, but we, we had a great old time reading books to the point of which, you know, like, the librarians would kind of like, Know us know who that we were coming in and just kind of give us a free pass on eating soggy Sandwiches in the children's area and stuff like that because they just knew Just knew we'd be in for the day I I mean now I realize that's probably neglect At the time I was having the time of my life I know I really was the way I got through that entire sweet valley series unbelievable

Lucy SB:

Oh, now that takes me back.

Swapna:

I know,

Lucy SB:

valley, hi.

Swapna:

we were there for so long. I actually went from Sweet Valley Infants all the way to Sweet Valley Saga. Like, I managed to get the kids, Jessica and Elizabeth, I managed to read their lives all the way from their youth to college. Yeah, I completed it. Yeah, I guess that's where it started. It started with books. Reading was my first step to becoming a writer. and so I was quite a, I guess, precocious child. I like, I kind of felt like I knew better than authors, and I liked to rewrite their endings. I also used to, were things that were high value in the playground, like marbles and stickers. And my parents didn't really get us those kinds of things. so I would have to, barter in my own way. And the only way I knew how was to kind of write stories and bind them with ribbon and swap them for like stickers and marbles and things I actually wanted. So people would say,

Lucy SB:

is amazing.

Swapna:

I know it's like a young Alan Sugar, but books. and, yeah, that's kind of where it started. So I, you know, I always wrote, I always kept diaries and journals and things like that. But sharing my work, apart from the kind of business side of things, sharing my work, like stuff that was very private to me, I struggled with a bit. So it wasn't really until, I started working on a book for, I found out I was pregnant. And so I thought, right, I'm going to do something special for my kid because he was the first grand. Child on both mine and my husband's side and everyone was buying us all this brilliant stuff like toys and clothes and stuff and I kind of was felt I was also the first of my friends to have a baby and I just felt really overwhelmed with it. So I thought I want to do something special. For my son and i'll make him a book About a toy that my husband had when he was a child And I was working on it and a friend of mine who just signed a publishing deal Saw me working on it during my lunch times and said oh, this is brilliant. You should send this to my publisher I think honestly that was the first time I actually thought People do this as a job. Like, I don't know who I thought was creating books. I don't know how I thought they wound up on shelves, but I never, like I'd never met an author. I never, it never occurred to me that that was a kind of thing. People made a living off of, I just had no idea. And so when she said that, I was like, Oh, okay, this is interesting because it's something I like doing. And so I did send it to her agent and obviously it was rubbish. Cause it was my first attempt at something. But it kind of made me think, Oh, maybe this is something I should take more seriously. So, you know, while Phoenix was young, I started writing more stories and I saw a competition called the greenhouse funny prize and I entered it and then was shortlisted. And I think that was exactly the boost I needed. It didn't matter that I didn't win. It was that it sort of encouraged me to I was on, it told me that I was on the right path. I was doing something right. Yeah, it was the validation I needed because otherwise you're just sort of sitting there in the blind, trying to figure it out. and so then a couple of years later I entered again and won and Faber and Faber were on the publish, well, not on the publishing panel, they were on the judging panel. And, they wanted to buy Dave. That was the book I entered with. And that was my first book, my first series. and it sort of went from there. And so at the moment, what I do right now is I write obviously my own things and my own books, but I also, um, have books. Publishers come to me with their ideas and say, could you write this for us? So sometimes they have a kind of a fully developed outline of something, or sometimes they have an idea of a kind of book that they might want to work with. And so I'm kind of doing half and half of that, because honestly, the truth is, if you want to write. For a living, you've got to have, you've got to diversify. You go, it's hard to just make your own stuff and make any sort of money. So, um, you have to be able to kind of take on projects and do your own stuff as well.

Lucy SB:

And when you're seeing those projects kind of Coming through the door that maybe aren't from something that you, you've sort of created from, from scratch, when you've been kind of pitched in, work from, from publishers, what, what are you looking for to kind of, yes. This is something that I, that I wanna do?

Swapna:

Mainly it's the idea that gets me the concept. I don't think i've ever worked with a publisher that's really set on this has to be like this just write this you know, I think I would struggle with that because My own voice has a way of just being annoyingly loud and coming through so It's usually a concept that I find really funny or intriguing or interesting. I have turned down things because I've just thought, first of all, I haven't had the time for it, or second of all, um, it's just kind of someone else could write this better than I could. So it's, it's mainly that I think I could do a good job of it, which is some level of arrogance on my part, I realize now, but, uh, yeah, if I think I can do a good job of it, I, I'll take it on.

Lucy SB:

No, you've got to know what you're good at, haven't

Swapna:

Um,

Lucy SB:

When you're sitting down to write, is it a different process when, when you've then, when you've got a project, either it's your own project or it's one that's coming from a publisher that you're now making your own, is it from that point on then, is it quite a similar process to create, to start working, on the project?

Swapna:

yeah, I mean, the first thing I wrote or the first thing that got published was almost 10 years ago now. certainly 10 years ago when I signed the contract. So the. The process in which I write has changed a bit and has had to because I didn't know what I was doing back then. I'm not sure I do now, to be honest, but, back then I would just have a lot of time to kind of just sit down and let the words flow, so to speak. Now that is madness. I can't, you can't work like that. So I have to have a plan. I tend to work out some sort of rough plan of either the general direction of the story or what might happen in each chapter. and then I will kind of do a deep dive with the character. So that's who I really want to connect with because the, once you know your character, you can kind of plonk them in any old scenario and they know what they're doing. Surprisingly, fiction takes up a quite a bit of research, you know, even if I'm writing a book about a rabbit, it's made up. I don't want it to feel like an, a human wearing rabbit clothes, if that makes sense. So, you know, there will be some level of research that goes into it and like, you know, kind of, what do they like to eat and, um, how would they move around and how might they make, what kind of sounds would they make if they were annoyed or bemused or whatever

Lucy SB:

that. That is. in

Swapna:

yeah, I know

Lucy SB:

I'm sort of also imagining you almost roleplaying this around your house for a few days, method acting out the life of a

Swapna:

I mean honestly at at this point someone needs to send me some sort of david attenborough award or something for my knowledge on animals because I just Have unbelievable knowledge about pigeons and rabbits specifically only those two, but there you go um, so Yeah, I um, and then I sit down to write literally just get on with it. I've actually, I actually put a note because I do, I am a bit of a perfectionist and I, I hate that idea of writing down stuff and it doesn't look or sound good. And so I have to leave a note on my computer or in my diary that says, you have to write, um, 1000 words today. Don't worry if they're a bit rubbish. Like I just have to see that to be okay with it. Because once you have words on the page, you've got something to play with. You've got your clay to kind of mold. And so, if I don't have words on the page, then I'm, I'm stuck. I need to just give myself permission to be a bit rubbish at the beginning. And they are, they are always rubbish at the beginning. And then I just go back and fix it. So, just get on with it. Just once I have a plan, I kind of stick to it quite rigidly. I can't read during that time because voices just get confused in my head and I just block out that section to say, this is what I'm working on right now. This is where I am. And, yeah, just have those characters running around in my head for that period of time as I write it and then go back and edit it.

Lucy SB:

That's really, really interesting. I was going to, you've kind of given some really good advice within that answer. I was going to ask you if you, if there's listeners thinking about taking that step into, into becoming a writer or having a go at putting a story down on paper, if you have any advice for them that just get on with it is a good piece of advice. Um, have you got any other advice?

Swapna:

Yeah. I mean, yeah, honestly, just get on with it really is the only advice. You are the only person who can write the story that's in your head, in your voice. So don't worry about anyone else. Don't worry if you think, Oh, that sounds quite similar to my story. Only you can do your story your way. So just put words down. Once you've got words down, you can, you can go back and change them and, and, and make them look fancy or whatever you want to do to them. I think my other big bit of advice would be to just read really widely. Even if it's, I tell this to kids as well all the time, even if it's only to find the books you don't like, just have it. You've got to read as a writer in a way, you've got to understand when you're reading something, why you're not clicking with it, and then that will help you find your own voice. and then obviously the things that you do click with, just kind of like, why do I like this? What makes this funny to me? Why does this? Make me want to cry, you know, just connect with those parts of the reading process Like you're not reading just for pleasure. You're reading now as a writer. So figuring those things out knowing what else is out there in the age group you're writing for or even if you don't know the age group by reading widely you can figure out where your book sits because When you send it off to agents and publishers, They'll want you to have told them that kind of stuff. They're not going to do the research for you. They, they want you to say, this is my book. It sits in this age group. it's a bit like, you know, the inflatables meets ocean's eight or whatever it is, they, they want to know kind of a rough idea and you have to do that bit for them. So the more you read in, the children's book area, then. The more you're going to have a better grasp of what's out there. And, uh, yeah, you can do it for free. You don't need to loiter in bookshops. You can go to a library for a whole day and read books all day. Yeah.

Lucy SB:

bring bring your children along as well and just ignore them whilst you're going to do your reading.

Swapna:

Oh Yeah, Yeah,

Lucy SB:

that's that's the way, where it's at. You've alluded to your, your latest title, we're talking about rabbits. so you have got a book coming out with OUP called Reggie Rabbit, The Great Carrot Heist. Can you tell people a little bit about it? Can you introduce the story? That would be great.

Swapna:

Yeah. So this is an example of an amazing publisher coming to me with an idea and saying, Hey, would you like to write this? And me saying, absolutely. You've got me hooked by this picture of a rabbit. so the book follows a young detective, Reggie Rabbit, who is a rabbit. and he, Basically wants to be just like his detective hero, Detective Fox, who lives in the, the sort of Gotham esque city of Bearburg. And, Reggie Rabbit has a bit of a slow start in his detective career. He gets, makes a few mistakes and has very small projects to work on that he's a bit disappointed with because where he lives in Little Critter, it's, it's pretty, you know, mundane and a bit boring. boring over there. and he's off to school and a new kid joined school. It's, a little parakeet called Pipsquark and they make friends. and, uh, he's given a lead for a case where a whole bunch of carrots are missing. Now, the impact of this is pretty bad because his. His parents actually own a vegetable store. So he starts to hear, you know, grumblings and little is serious business. Yeah, it's like, it's taking down a whole carrot economy here. And, uh, Reggie's Reggie feels like he's the best detective for the job and he gets on the case. So I'm not going to ruin the story, um, for those who are listening, but it is, yeah, no, no huge spoilers, but it is a, like a sort of action packed, kind of, you know, gothic esque, illustrations from Becca Moore. She's just brilliant. and, it's a mix of kind of comic strips and, you know, prose and It's a really fun story, especially for like kids who have, emerging readers or just starting to read chapter books on their own. it's a brilliant book for that or a big, brilliant like class read as well.

Lucy SB:

Yeah. I thought it was really interesting the way that it's the illustrated chapters and then you've got the, the comics panels sections and the way that they, they work together. did having those two elements change the way you worked when you, when you were creating. The story, did it influence your storytelling, having those two different sort of formats interwoven?

Swapna:

Yeah, did it influence the storytelling? That's a good question. Um, well, it's interesting because, um, The way I think is, I guess, quite visual, so when I'm writing a story, I kind of see it like a mini movie in my head, and I end up just kind of writing what I'm seeing. And so, my first drafts of pretty much every book I've ever written is very dialogue heavy, it's almost like reading a play, and then I have to go back in and add in the other bits and bobs. and so, I guess, there were some parts that just lent to just staying that way. And, those are the bits that eventually become comic strips. I mean, Oxford university press and Catherine, who's my amazing editor there. She had said that they had wanted to do something that wasn't a full graphic novel, but had elements of comic strips in there. And, So yeah, I knew going in that we would have sections like that But a lot of my books especially like bad panda have also kind of turned out like that in that Some sections just lean better towards looking like they should be in comic strip and or more dialogue heavy anyway and so I think just naturally, I don't know, maybe it's just me being lazy and I can't be bothered to go back in and add the sort of description y bits. And so I'm like, yeah, this will be all your comics, don't worry, I'll put the heavy lifting on the illustrator. I suppose it didn't really change the way the story, Telling was going to happen, but it's certainly added to it because this is quite an there's there are some, you know Good kind of fun actiony scenes and this is a detective novel and you kind of you're running Running through the streets of Bearberg and trying to discover things. So there were definitely I think there was definitely Sections of this and it is a bit of a nod to those kind of dick tracy Comics

Lucy SB:

Yeah, that kind of noir atmosphere is really built up in those comic book sections, isn't it? Yeah. Yeah, I loved it. If you're thinking about the children, your readers, are you hoping this is going to be something that's going to pull in maybe children who read, read more in the graphic novel space what was the kind of the idea behind it from OUP of having this blended approach?

Swapna:

Oh, wow. I never asked them.

Lucy SB:

Shall I, shall

Swapna:

Um, I'm not sure, but I'll, I'll tell you. Yeah, maybe I should do. That's a really good question. I'm not sure, but I can tell you what my thinking was behind Bad Panda, which is also quite a similar format. It was that, You know, the work intensity for a full graphic novel was just a lot at the time and Sheena wasn't able to commit to that, but we didn't want to not create a book for those readers because we had spent a lot of time in the young fiction area with Dave Pigeon and also I'd previously written Ballet Bunnies with OUP as well. and so. You know, I could see that kids really love graphic novels and there was nothing really sitting in that space. You know, like I said, they'd go from picture books to kind of readers and then suddenly there was these very intense, like middle grade

Lucy SB:

Yeah, it's

Swapna:

Um, Which were black and white and a lot of text is quite a step Yeah And but you know They still wanted to hold books and have this satisfaction of reaching the end of a book that felt like a middle grade book so that's kind of where my thinking behind bad panda had text in it And these kind of illustrated chapters, but it also had these comic strip chapters as well And so it felt less intense for the reader And you got to the end and you had the satisfaction of saying, I've read this chunky book. Um, you know, and I'm feel really proud. And it gave you that kind of kick of confidence to go and look for something else, that kind of size and shape. and maybe it was something which was full black and white prose, or maybe it was something that was a hybrid. It doesn't really matter. It was just that I really wanted to give that confidence to kids who maybe struggled with the idea of reading a full kind of like, Tiny writing, black and white, middle grade novel, and so this is the perfect way to do that. It also actually works the other way. those kids who love like kind of the intensive middle grade, you know, kind of writing or those young chapter books, and had never met comics or never thought to pick up a graphic novel. It kind of worked that way too, because it was kind of their introduction to it. So something familiar to them. but also something that You know, kind of had something new that made them think, Oh, okay. I really quite enjoyed that. Maybe I'll go and pick up, you know, something like the inflatables or something like agent moose or something, you know,

Lucy SB:

Yeah, both great examples, and creators of both of those books series have been on the podcast before, so, both of these, yeah, so people can check those episodes

Swapna:

How massive are these shoes that I'm trying to step into this is really intimidating now So yeah, basically, I think it's a good intro to both sides of the of the reading spectrum there

Lucy SB:

Yeah, I was talking to, I don't know if you've seen, they're more for sort of key stage three and above, but, Julian Sedgwick and Chie Kutsuwada's, Tsunami Girl and a hundred tales from the Tokyo Ghost Cafe. we were sort of having the same conversation that there is this, this possibility of from whichever direction and there's not a hierarchy there. It's not moving people on, but it's that opening up other reading worlds for people that from whatever direction,

Swapna:

Yes, that's exactly it. It's, it's, it's not a hierarchy at all, but it's just like introducing readers who might not have seen something like that to maybe go and try something new. But yeah, that's my hope anyway. I would love if that happened.

Lucy SB:

you know, I'm sure it will. It just, I feel like everything, it works so well. in Reggie Rabbit, it just, yeah, you sort of move so nicely between, from one, one part to the next, and it just, it feels like it's the right moment when it goes into the comics, and then it, then you come back out again. It doesn't jar at any point. It's, yeah, it's really well done.

Swapna:

I have to give full credit to Becca and to, the art director, I think Tom over at OUP, they've just done the most amazing job of kind of fusing illustrations across the chapters and having these really brilliant, points at which we turn from, The text to comic strips. They've just done the most incredible product. The whole book itself. It's just this gorgeous size and

Lucy SB:

Yeah, I love it. I, I know it sounds like a silly thing to say, but I just, but I do really love how it feels in your hand. It's just square and, and big, but not too big. And yeah, I just feel like it's a really

Swapna:

Yes. Yeah. I mean, imagine you were just little and then you kind of got to the end of this and you're like, Oh my God, I read this whole book. Like, I think it's just the perfect size for young readers.

Lucy SB:

Yeah, I agree. I was going to ask you about how you work with Becca, on the creation of the book. Was it very much that you kind of, once, was the writing stage completely finished and all sort of signed and sealed, and then it went to illustration, or was there a bit more to and fro?

Swapna:

so that I did my bit and then Becca did her bit. We did reach out to each other, kind of privately, to say hi and how excited we were to work on the project. But, I finished the text and then, sent it off to Catherine and we kind of, you know, Worked on editing it and then then it went off to the art director and to Becca and then she added in the illustrations. And then once her kind of roughs came in, we tweaked things to kind of match a bit more with the illustrations or just to tidy up sort of speech bubbles and things like that. So at that point we were all on this, PDF tweaking things. and then, she brought in her final artwork. I mean, her roughs were stunning, to be honest, just, I was just like, I can't believe these are roughs. but yeah, then, then her final artwork came in and they were just amazing. And that's kind of how it came together. I suppose in a, in a weird sort of way, because this, concept came from in house. It did feel a bit more like, you know, the control was with the publisher to bring it together and stitch it all together. Whereas maybe some of the other books that I've worked on have, you know, especially things that have been my own creation, I've worked a bit more closely with the illustrator and kind of got to know them and then maybe thought about things that they could draw and kind of. things that would look exciting on the page. so yeah, it was, this was publisher house heavy on the kind of bringing it all together. But I've absolutely loved Becca's work. It's honestly, like she went into my head. Millions of miles away and then just kind of drew what was in there. I couldn't have asked for a better illustrator on this project because she genuinely just got it straight away. She knew exactly how this book was going to look and how we wanted the atmosphere and the characters and just, yeah, she just did an amazing, amazing job with the book.

Lucy SB:

Yeah, it really comes together so well. I particularly loved Granny Lavender, the character. I, I just really loved that, that relationship. Kind of intergenerational, and she's got a little bit of um, There's something about her, maybe she's got her own secrets that we don't know about. She's, she's very knowing, and I was interested, you know, were their influences real or fictional of how he came, came about the Granny Lavender character, because I just enjoyed her a lot.

Swapna:

Yeah, I mean, I have, I've always been very jealous of those who have a good relationship with grandparents. I just don't know why, but I really click with older people. I feel like I should have been in their generation or something like an old soul. Um, and, uh, but I didn't, I didn't get to meet my grandparents. They were all sort of passed on before I was born. And, so one of the main things that I really love is the relationship between my son and my mother in law. She is very, she's basically Granny Lavender. She's very unassuming. She doesn't knit. I think she'd be horrified if she was a granny that knitted. don't, you don't know. Just to look at her, how much she accomplished, like she was one of the first people in her university as a female to get a PhD. She like set trends. She was just the most incredible, formidable force. And even now she still continues to be. And so I really like that kind of cheeky relationship that my son Phoenix has with her. and I think that was a huge influence. In this book and I love that you think she kind of knows a bit more than she's letting on because she absolutely does Um, and i'm really grateful that there will be more reggies and you'll get to uncover a bit more

Lucy SB:

Well, that was gonna be one of my next questions because it does feel like, well, Reggie and Pit Squawk are such a good duo as well, and it does feel like there's more to come. So is this planned as a, as a long as a series one, two, or what have you

Swapna:

Yeah Well, the second book comes out, I think in September or October and is a bit of a spooky one in time for Halloween. And that one's called the ghost of seagull rock and I've just seen the artwork for that. It's incredible. and we meet a new character, but yes, Reggie and, uh, Pipsqueak are on the case of a mysterious ghostly situation. and, I have just sent in the text for the third book, which will hopefully be out next year. hopefully also fourth book as well in there. And as I said, you get to know a little bit more about granny lavender and her kind of history. Um, because she's not all that she seems. She's not just a knitting granny. She's much more, um, she's got a lot more secrets there.

Lucy SB:

It's great for young readers as well to have the, the series aspect, I think, because once you've got to know some characters and you've really enjoyed spending time with them, it, it's just so nice to be able to have, oh, and there's another one, and there's another one, and also, you know, and at the moment, when this is like the first just come out, it's that anticipation of waiting for the next one to come out as well. I think it's, adds to much.

Swapna:

Yeah, I hope so. I, I feel like kids, kids are super loyal and if they like a character, they're going to stick by them. So I really hope I've done Reggie and Pipsquark justice, and I hope they love them as much as I do because, I love this series, so I love writing the stories. I love going back to Bearburg and Little Critter and Being back in that place with, with Reggie. so yeah, I, it's just come out. So we're just sort of like hearing from readers about what they think. so this is always a nerve wracking bit,

Lucy SB:

Yeah,

Swapna:

hoping that it clicks with readers. yeah, fingers crossed or paws crossed.

Lucy SB:

At the end of the podcast, I always ask guests to Pick out few take aways, could be tips about getting children writing or writing themselves, about comics in general. Got anything to leave us to kind of ponder on or something we could build into our practice as educators?

Swapna:

Honestly, I knew this question was coming and I started to panic a bit because I feel so out of my depth Trying to advise a teacher or an educator on anything Because I know i'd be absolutely rubbish as a teacher and educator. I'll tell you the things that made a difference in my life with Educators and that was seeing them reading And seeing them enjoying books. So whether it was, we, we had like a quiet moment in the class where we were all reading, seeing our teacher reading and that kind of role modeling really encouraged the rest of us to read or certainly me anyway, and then, uh, you know, kind of reading their book reviews as well, you know, kind of knowing that we were all in it together kind of thing. and so. Having those really kind of vivid, active conversations with your teacher about books you've enjoyed, things you've read over the weekend, I think it all comes down to role modeling. If you, if a child can see you doing it, then you probably can too. Got a better chance of convincing them to read. Um, if, as opposed to if they don't see you read, I know it's kind of

like a big ask because there's

Swapna:

so much other stuff going on and there's so much on your, on your plate, but I think it, it definitely made a difference in my life being able to have conversations and share books. And, you know, when my child comes up to me excited and saying, Oh, you know, I just read this. Black sand beach. You should read that. It was exactly the same at school for me. I didn't have that with my parents, but at school, when teachers said, okay, Swapna, I've read this book, you are going to love it. And then I said, well, what, what's It about? Or why would I love it? It meant something that they had read it personally. And then they were saying, you should, you should pick this up. This would be for you. So I would say that's probably. And the other thing is reading aloud, I guess, if you can, you know, kind of make time in the classroom to read aloud as a class. I'm sure that I don't know all the technical benefits of it, but I know for sure. Laughing together or just yeah that kind of thing those memories I can't tell you how much I still remember, you know, those kind of just rolling around on the carpet Laughing at kind of the jolly postman and like that. Just

Lucy SB:

And the crying together as well, at the other end of the scale.

Swapna:

Yeah a hundred percent, You know, I still read aloud to my child and he's 14 and, we do that as a family each night and we mix it up with like kind of different kind of books and things that he has seen in the bookshop and said, Oh, I quite like to read this one or things that we, when we go from picture books up to, you know, kind of adult books as well, cause he's at that kind of age where he's sort of flipping between young adult and kind of actual adult books. Books. And we still do it and it's still worth it. So I think in the classroom, probably absolutely still worth it.

Lucy SB:

Yeah, completely agree. So just to end, you've come up with lots of recommendations already, so you could pick one of the books that you've already mentioned, or you could pick something else, I know you live in New Zealand. I'm always really interested in, what the kind of comic scene is or is there anything children's literature wise that's just happening in News New Zealand that we might not know about I'm just really interested to know what's going on over there. I've never been to New Zealand.

Swapna:

Oh, you have to, Oh my God, you have to. It's the most beautiful place. It's mountains and beaches and just incredible. But yeah, also an incredible writing scene over here. Loads of brilliant children's authors over here. Some of my favorite things, that I've read and probably more relatable to comics, are the Big Little Blue series by Raymond McGrath, that's published by Scholastic over here, and it's just gorgeous, it's like These two best friends, Big and Little Blue, they're two penguins, just kind of going about their day, just, you know, kind of stumbling upon all those things young kids do, like sharing, and, you know, playing together, and being kind to one another, and all of those things in this really funny graphic novel. Honestly, I hope they turn this into an animation. It

gives me big Bluey vibes. Um, but

Swapna:

that is one of my absolute favorites at the moment. So I think there's a couple of those at the moment. Um, so the big little blue series is brilliant.

Lucy SB:

haven't heard of that at all. I love it when I have something that I've never heard of. That's really exciting.

Swapna:

yeah, yeah, it's really brilliant and so gorgeous. So cute. One of my other things that my son introduced me to is the Black Sand Beach series, which is a kind of more middle grade graphic novel and is about Dash and Lily and this kind of like big adventure and mysteries and things and that's also a series. So that's I think by Richard Fairgray. But yes, also just absolutely brilliant. just full action packed, really. Entertaining. You know, kind of learning about kind of mysteries and spooky things and haunted lighthouses and stuff. That's absolutely brilliant as well. and comes obviously as a recommendation from my child. So I always feel like it's a double thumbs up. If you get a child to recommend you a book, but there's just also just so many brilliantly funny authors over here. There's, the tulip and Doug series by which have picture book series by Emma Wood. And, The Granny McFlitter series by Heather Haylock, which is really just the most clever rhyming picture book. I just love that stuff. There's so much brilliant stuff here in New Zealand. so definitely worth kind of hunting down and finding stuff.

Lucy SB:

Well, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast today. Thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom and, for telling us about the Reggie Rabbit series. Now we're very excited now that I know it's a series. thank you so much. It's been absolutely brilliant to have you on.

Swapna:

Oh, thanks for having me. And, yeah, good luck with the editing. I don't know how much of this I've made any sense in.

Lucy SB:

You have been very, very good.

Swapna:

I just think it's brilliant. talking about books.

There we have it. Thanks so much to Swapna for coming onto the show and taking us through her journey into comics. I really loved hearing about how she. is disciplined and approaching her work. I haven't seen secret side project, which is to try and get listeners to start writing as well and start creating their own stories. So if anyone has been inspired by an episode of comic boom, to start their own writing practice, just write a short story, just get something down. Don't worry if it's rubbish. just get something down and then work on it and improve it, whether it be comics, or whether it be more prose writing or poetry, whatever it is, it takes your fancy. I would love to know if you've been. Inspired to take up a little bit of writing as a result of listening. you can contact the podcast through our Instagram on, at comic underscore boom underscore podcast. Please do follow us. If you don't already. you can get in touch with me via Twitter on at Lucy underscore Braidley. And all of these are in the show notes as an email address in the show notes ti. What was I going to recommend today? Now my recommendation, was going to be another one in following in Swapna's footsteps. As she recommended titles that her son had shown her. My son had a bit of a, kind of a special moment. Uh, in the last few weeks where he said, Um, do you notice anything different about me? No. What what, and he said, I love reading now. Now this is an absolute landmark occasion because he is not like during this really difficult. and he's really not enjoyed it for a long time. He's seven. And for him to say that he loves reading now is a amazing moment in our family. So we were like, wow. Why what's made you what's made this change and he said, Narwhal and Jelly so, if you don't know these, beautiful books, very accessible, sweet stories of a little comic duo of friends under the sea Narwhal and Jelly Je normal loves eating waffles, nice little pair of contrasting characters. You get up to lots of, Exciting. the little mini adventures in their stories, they're just really accessible and lovely and just the right size for a bedtime story. And he's just really enjoyed being able to access those himself. Yeah. It's just a brilliant turnaround. So thank you, ben Clanton who makes Narwhal and jelly books for. Creating something that's got Jessie reading. That's brilliant. I cannot. Thank you enough. he really got a lot of self belief now that he's, that he can read something on his own with just a little bit of support. So, yes. Thank you. Thank you so much to our sponsors, ALCS the authors. Licensing and collecting society for sponsoring this episode. I'm going to flag as I usually do some of their resources. I'm just going to remind people of the ones that I pulled out last week, because there's still rightly so a lot of chats going on about the Carnegie awards. The winners were announced a few weeks ago, and they're still plenty of time to, get that short list out and have children and young people reading those. Of course, it's not the official shadowing scheme. Now that moment has passed. but you can still replicate these things in the classroom and in the library and ALCS have got some accompanying guides on that website, there's a guide for children and the guide for young people, all about understanding, communicating around copyright, which is a core part of their work, helping to make sure that their knowledge around that subject is spread. They have been championing author since 1977, to make sure that they are able to collect any money that they are owed for people. Photocopy in their work for broadcast rights. So they collect all of those fees to make sure authors have that those additional funds that they're owed, which is a brilliant thing and keeps the lights on in many writers studies. So thank you very much to ALCS for doing that. Do check out those resources. If you're looking at anything to do with copyright or the Carnegies over the next few weeks, as the term wraps up. Thank you so much for listening today has been absolutely brilliant to have you all here. The audience is growing and that is lovely to see. So thank you so much. My name is Lucy Starbuck Bradley. I'm producer and host of comic. Boom. Thanks for listening.