Hooray, hooray, there’s a new Handa picture book from Eileen Browne, and it’s a lovely one!
Twenty-five years after the publication of Handa’s Surprise and sixteen years after Handa’s Hen, Eileen Browne has created another richly simple wonderful picture book about Handa and her friend Akeyo. It has all the magical ingredients of the other two books, delivering a delightful surprise for the story characters, but leaving us, the book’s audience, knowing more than they do. I’m sure that little taste of power experienced by child audiences for these books that is part of their appeal. But there’s so much more.
In this story, Handa is going for a sleepover with Akeyo in a hut in their Kenyan village home. She’s a bit nervous as they play, then settle with their toys in the hut. She hears worrying noises. First it’s a snorting sound. ‘It’s Dad,’ said Akeyo. ‘He snorts when he laughs.’ Then she hears, in turn, chattering, rattling, squeaking, slurping and crying as they finish their games and settle for sleep. But Akeyo has explanations for them all. She has a very noisy family! There’s a mysterious thud in the night, then tap-tapping on the door in the morning. But there’s nobody there when they open the door. And the family claim to have been quiet all night, leaving the girls wondering what could possibly explain the noises.
But we know ...
Every young child who has stayed away from home for a night will recognise Handa’s fears. They will enjoy seeing how life in a Kenyan village differs from their own, whilst the family behaves much as their own one does. They will enjoy learning to recognise and name a range of nocturnal animals. And they will certainly love the joke that they are in on!
A beautiful story in every way. One to share again and again.
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