Swapna Haddow

Little Rabbit's Big Surprise

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Little Rabbit is bored and Mama Rabbit is busy. Despite living in a bustling burrow, with her family, in a thriving meadow community, Little Rabbit struggles to know what to do. Luckily, Big Grandfather Rabbit needs a willing assistant to help him with his chores and Little Rabbit, desperate for companionship and something to do, agrees to spend the day with him. 

Grandfather Rabbit’s chores involve helping and supporting neighbours in the meadow and Little Rabbit quickly learns how kind and generous her grandfather is with his time. The two rabbits not only help dig Mole from his burrow, they make tea for poorly Granny Hedgehog, help a new family of dormice to move into their new home and collect food for Mother Squirrel’s family.

Little Rabbit’s day with Grandfather has taught her so much that her thoughts are no longer centred on her own needs, but on the needs of their friends in the Meadow. She worries about them all night and when she wakes in the morning to a list of chores from Grandpa, she is eager to help. A second day of helping friends confirms to Little Rabbit how much fun she can have serving others. She follows Grandfather Rabbit’s example of kindness, listening and making sure no one in the community is forgotten. When tasks appear insurmountable, Little Rabbit’s enthusiasm rallies all the neighbours to help.

When the chores are done, Little Rabbit & her grandfather are able to reflect on their time together. Little Rabbit’s big surprise is the joy she feels through spreading kindness to others. Grandfather is proud of all his little granddaughter has learned from him. They share carroty cuddles, satisfied with moments well spent looking after others. 

Beautifully written, Swapna Haddow has a gentle way of effortlessly describing both settings and character feelings so that they come alive for the reader. Allison Friend’s gorgeous full colour illustrations are the perfect pairing for this heartwarming tale. A charming story with many valuable messages; this story not only promotes the value of relationships with grandparents and the wisdom that can be imparted from one generation to another, but the impact of making sure the needs of the most vulnerable people in communities are not overlooked. Hardback editions of this story have the look and feel of traditional classics, such as Alison Uttley’s Little Grey Rabbit series. It makes a wonderful stepping stone from picture books to independent reading.

This book would be most suitable for a KS1 audience. Author Swapna Haddow’s descriptions within the book would make a great template for writing. Children could describe their own meadow where Little Rabbit could help another animal in need, writing about what they can hear, smell, feel and see. A class might also enjoy writing thank you letters from the perspective of each character to Little Rabbit and her grandfather. This book would also serve as great inspiration for young readers to look around the school or wider community and think about ways they could be kind and help others in need. It is the perfect text to use in PHSE as inspiration for a discussion about empathy and about how helping others makes us feel happy.

Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Alison Friend

Stripes Publishing ISBN: 9781788950299

NSTBA Past Winners- Read Aloud Category

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Reading aloud is one of the most pleasurable and important parts of a teacher’s job. This category is great fun to investigate and find candidates for- and we have read some treasures over the years! All of those short listed ( and most long listed!) are now tried and tested in our classrooms and have been huge successes. Such a wonderful selection to pick from.


In 2015, the wonderful ‘Hercufleas’ won. This is a great story, full of fun and houmour- and an adorable flea! On WBD this year, in our Sharing Stories assembly, Torie chose Chapter One to read to KS2 and it was as popular as ever! You can read our review here.


Sam attended the awards ceremony and has been a firm favourite with the group ever since, twice making the trip to visit schools in our group and speaking to JAB.

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‘Dave Pigeon’ won in 2016. Sheena, Swapna and her family came to the ceremony and were just wonderful. Warm and friendly, they added to the lovely atmosphere of the occasion. Dave proved to be a great hit with our children and each new book is eagerly anticipated. Light-hearted and quick to read these books have been particularly popular with Y3/4 children. You can read our review here.

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Andrew Beasley won in 2017 with ‘SCREAM’, a delightfully spooky read with really strong characters. Andrew was lovely when he attended the ceremony and was delighted to receive the award. The second book of this series, ‘Carnival of Monsters’ has also been very popular.

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You can read our review of ‘The Mummy’s Revenge’ here.

Last year, this category was won by the lovely Laura James and Emily Fox, both of whom came to the awards. Fabio is great fun and we are looking forward to sharing book two with children as soon as possible. Great fun, this highly illustrated, colourful story really offers something a little different. You can read our review here.


So many wonderful books to share, making the daily read aloud session something really special for everyone. Because these are chosen to be read aloud to a class, not all of them have book event ideas or teaching suggestions to go with them, but some do.


This year’s contenders are looking just as exciting- only thirteen days until submissions close now!

Quality Fiction next!

Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!)


Our pigeontastic pals are back again! In this adventure, Dave and Skipper brush feathers with royalty as Dave’s latest catbrained idea leads them to the Human Palace to enjoy all the leftover treats from the royal party held the day before. Meeting Prince Raju, the Royal Pigeon, opens a whole new packet of biscuits as the similarity between him and Dave leads to them swapping places for a day. But life in the Royal Lofts is not all it’s cracked up to be…


Brilliantly illustrated throughout by Sheena Dempsey, ‘Royal Coo!’ is a delightfully funny read which allows readers to revisit their favourite pigeons, Dave and Skipper. The story is a pigeon take on The Prince and the Pauper, reminding us all that the grass is not always greener! Dave’s wonderfully naive and biscuit centred view of the world makes him so endearing. In contrast, Princess Niyanta and Palomi add a touch of winged wickedness, but a few wise words from Skipper leads to a satisfying conclusion for all!

Clever chapter headings offer plays on words and there is a additional information about the real Royal pigeons- and the Tower ravens. There is also a guide to how to do the pigeon floss!


This might just be my new favourite book! Whilst reading last night, I was completely amazed to find that I (in pigeon form!) make an appearance in the story. My class love Dave Pigeon books and so I treated them to a reading of that section and they burst into spontaneous applause! It really made my day! That aside, this is such a fun story with an appeal across age groups which makes it a real winner!

A brilliant addition to the series, Royal Coo is out in March.

Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!) Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Sheena Dempsey

Faber and Faber ISBN: 978- 0571336982

You can read our review of Dave Pigeon, the 2016 NSTBA 2016 Read Aloud category, here.

You can read our review of Dave Pigeon (Racer!) here.