Handa’s Surprise


Walker Books

I’d heard about this one for a while before I got my hands on a copy. It’s often recommended to primary school teachers looking for a bit of diversity in their reading choices. I picked one up for school but it was a hit at home too.

Why is it so good?

The beauty of this book is in its beautiful vivid illustrations and their mismatch with the simple text. The book is inspired by the Luo tribe of South-west Kenya but the themes are universal. Handa has a basket of fruit on her head which gets pinched by various animals as she walks to her friends house. Handa has no idea this is happening but the reader sees everything. This is a book for sharing rather than reading as there is plenty of opportunity to discuss what is happening in the pictures. The exotic (for us) setting also led to some interesting discions about similarities and differences (and to a four year old trying to walk with a laundry basket on her head!)

And in school?

Often recommended to bring some diversity into the classroom, this book is a good place to start when discussing similarities and differences : animals, fruit, clothes, homes etc. Its also a wonderful book for developing oral language both in simple terms (what is happening in the pictures?) and more complex (what does she think is happening? What will happen next?). I also did a simple but lovely project tasting the fruit mentioned.

Older classes could do some work on Kenya for geography, music, language etc. I think it would be worth doing internet picture searches on Kenya to show that, while many people live in villages like those in the book, there are also thriving cities etc. Perhaps compare to images of Ireland involving thatched cottages etc. (or whatever the stereotypical image of your country is).

No harm to let them try to walk around balancing baskets on their heads too 😉.

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