Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne

Age Range: 3 to 6

The Story: Handa puts seven different pieces of fruit into her basket to take to her friend Ayeko. On the way to Ayeko’s village a variety of animals help themselves to a piece of fruit until unbeknown to Handa her basket is empty. When a runaway goat headbutts a tree Handa’s basket is refilled with tangerines. Ayeko is surprised and happy to see Handa but it is Handa who is most surprised when she discovers that her basket is full of tangerines.

Handa’s Surprise is set in Africa which immediately provides a stimulus for discussion about how some aspects of our lives in Europe differ from Handa’s, my daughter is fascinated by the fact that Handa is carrying her basket on her head. The illustrations use rich, vibrant colours and the short, simple sentences are supported by the actions in the pictures. The animals are only introduced pictorially, they aren’t mentioned in the text and once they have taken a piece of fruit they disappear into the background as the next animal is introduced. Some of the animals and fruit were new to my daughter when we first read the story and it is lovely to have the pictures and the vocabulary on the end papers (I wasn’t completely sure if I was right about the antelope, it was good to have it confirmed!).

This is a lovely story for introducing / developing awareness of life in another country / culture and developing a child’s vocabulary. I have also used the book in school as part of a food topic. In the story the less familiar guava and passion fruit are introduced alongside more familiar fruit such as oranges and when possible I have taken the fruit into the classroom so that the children can taste it. We have then talked about how and where the fruit is grown and the differences in weather and climate that are necessary to grow particular kinds of fruit.

Handa’s Surprise is a lovely, simple story which provides a great first learning experience for a child who has no knowledge or experience of Africa.

Author / Illustrator: Eileen Browne

Handa's Surprise (Walker Paperbacks)

by Eileen Browne [Walker Books Ltd]
£5.24 ·  EUR 6,80 ·  EUR 7,97 ·  EUR 7,39 ·  $4.85

We also like Where’s the Bus? written by Eileen Browne, a very different story to Handa’s Surprise.

13 thoughts on “Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne

  1. We just read the story and DD loved it! We have been reading African folktales and we won’t tire of these! I think they are full of life lessons and wonderful messages.
    Thanks for sharing this on Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  2. I have used this book for teaching English in Kindergarten and the kids really liked it. The kids got the gist of the story from the vibrant pictures and had a lot of fun learning about the different animals and fruits.

    My daughter and I also talked about life in Africa and the cultural differences. It cracked me up to see her trying to walk with a basket on her head and reenacting the story with her dolls. It left quite an impression!

  3. Sounds like a lovely book for my daughter. She is also completely fascinated that African women carry so much on their heads and has also tried to carry a basket on her head. She realised how difficult it is :)

  4. I love Handa’s Surprise. Such a wonderfully simple but complex book and introduces so much to young children. It’s one of those “must own” books in my opinion.

    • It is great when kids can learn about other cultures and experiences through a picture book. Handa’s Surprise has definitely helped me to widen my daughter’s horizons :).

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