Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Handa's Surprise

Author                                : Eileen Browne
Illustrations by                     : Eileen Browne
Age range recommended     :  3+
Theme                                 : Best Friends, African culture, fruits and animals

Opening lines –  
Handa put seven delicious fruits in a basket for her friend, Akeyo.

She will be surprised, thought Handa as she set off for Akeyo's village. "I wonder which fruit she'll like best?"

Introduction and Synopsis –
Handa's sets off to meet her friend, Akeyo, who lives in the neighbouring village somewhere in Kenya. She carries in her cane basket seven types of delicious fruit - banana, passion fruit, avocado, mango etc. As she keeps walking on with the basket on her head, she wonders if her best friend would be surprised with her gift. She wonders if it is the soft yellow banana would be her favourite or if the ripe red mango would delight her the best. Unknown to Handa, one by one, animals native to the tropical country pick up one fruit after another from the basket till the basket is empty. What happens when Handa reaches Akeyo's village? Is Handa disappointed that she couldn't give any of the fruits that she so lovingly gathered for Akeyo?

Why did my caterpillar and I like this book?
ME - 
Its a beautiful story of pure friendship between two little girls. The illustrations are lovely - vibrant and colourful. The characterisation of Handa is particulary sweet - her smile, her eyes and the innocent laughter on the last page - when she realises the surprise - its all lovely.

It is a great reader book for beginners as there is very little text. The book also richly illustrates Kenyan life - brightly coloured clothes, jungle creatures like the African elephant, zebra, giraffe, ostrich among others, exotic fruits, hairstyles, the tropical background etc.

The book is also a lesson in modesty. There are many aspects of the book which introduce the little ones to a modest village life. Handa doesn't take a cab or even a bus to the neighbouring village - she walks. A gift to a best friend is not something fancy, but a basket of fruits. The girls are wearing basic cotton clothes and footwear. Akeyo is shown as having a number of siblings who are taking care of each other - the elder sister is even shown carrying her baby sibling on her back.

The illustrations are the most eye-catching feature of the book for the little ones. And the fact that it is a simple, sweet story that can capture their hearts. The surprise at the end is also something that my little A delighted in. This was one of those books where, when we were on the 2nd or 3rd page, A declared, "Amma, I love this book!" :-)

If your child is interested, you can also talk about the African continent and follow up with some videos or stories of the life there. A was also interested in knowing where Africa falls on the world map. The story is also great for role-play.

Online link -
We found a beautiful video of the story here. Do have a look and enjoy it with your little one.

The cocoon rates it -


This book deserves a reading for sure.It is one of a kind. I'd also say this is a keep-sake, but I leave that to you! 


  1. what lovely illustrations! I'll have to add it to my collection of children's books. thanks.

    visiting from A to Z Challenge.

  2. We got our copy just last week! :-) Along with Handa's hen!

  3. Its a lovely book. My girls have enjoyed story time sessions of this book when they were small...sweet memories))

  4. This one is such a cute story. We love stories like these with animals , fruits and bright illustrations .

    Visiting after a long time. You have done some really nice picks.

    And I picked Aliens love underpants - at a book sale- I wouldn't have picked the book - if not for your blog. I love book review blogs - especially ones like these which are first hand info from moms who have tried it on their kids