An interview with Sarah Horne on Panda at the Door and her favourite animal books for kids

Panda at the Door by Sarah Horne. Book cover and author photograph.


We were very excited when Panda at the Door landed on our desks. Sarah Horne is one of our favourite illustrators – subscribers who have been with us for a while will remember the hilarious Charlie Changes into a Chicken by Sam Copeland, which we sent our Parakeets a couple of years ago. When we heard that Sarah had written and illustrated her own book, we just knew it would be a great fit for our boxes. Pudding the Panda is charming and hilarious, and we love the special bond she has with Callum, who is so relatable for young readers. And, of course, the illustrations are amazing!  Here we quiz Sarah on what inspired the book and which animal books for kids she recommends our subscribers read next.

What inspired you to write Panda at the Door?

Much of the detail comes from a combo of childhood memories – for instance, my childhood cat was called Puddy, or Pudding if she was naughty. 

What came first, the illustrations or the story?

I have been an illustrator for a very long time, so naturally the illustrations come first and I write around them. 

Why did you decide to set the book in Edinburgh? Did you visit the zoo and meet the pandas while you were researching the book?

Edinburgh seemed the perfect place to set Panda. Yes, I did visit the Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo while researching the book. Very helpful for research - Edinburgh Zoo is one of the best zoos around. 

What is the best thing about writing and illustrating books for children?

It seems obvious, but there’s always a lovely synergy between the text and image when you write and illustrate in the same book. You know exactly what your author is thinking about a scene or character, because the author is you! 

Do you have a favourite place to create your books?

My drawing board or on the Cornish coast. Fistral Beach in particular. 

What was your favourite book as a child?

I really loved Don’t Forget the Bacon by Pat Hutchings and adored anything by Richard Scarry.

What other animal-inspired books would you recommend our subscribers read next?

Charlotte’s Web by E.B White, White Fang by Jack London, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan. 

Are you creating a sequel to Panda at the Door and can you tell us anything about what Pudding gets up to next?

Yes, there is a sequel in which Pudding and Da become ridiculously famous and get up to all sorts of mischief. 

Intrigued to find out more about Pudding and her adventures? Grab your copy along with our brilliant bespoke activity pack here.


Children's book news straight to your inbox

Sign-up now