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Handa's Surprise - Eileen Browne

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Author: Eileen Browne / Format: Big book / Date of publication: 07 July 1997 / Genre: Children's General Fiction / Publisher: Walker Books Ltd / Title: Handa's Surprise / ISBN 13: 9780744554731 / ISBN 10: 0744554731 / Alternative EAN: 9780744536348

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    10 Reviews
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      28.04.2012 17:37
      Very helpful
      1 Comment



      I would definitely recommend this book

      A few months ago, when I was told that as part of my teaching interview I needed to read a short story to a group of pre-school children in an engaging and exciting way. I immediately knew that Handa's Surprise was the story that I was going to read to the children, with its vibrant and beautiful illustrations and many learning opportunities, I thought that the children would love this story, and they did!

      The Plot: This is the story of a girl named Handa, who on the way to visit her friend Akeyo, picks a variety of fruits and puts them in her basket, in which she carries on her head. However, what she does not realize is that a variety of animals are taking the fruits one by one from her basket as she progresses on her journey until eventually she has no fruits in her basket, until a goat runs into a tree and knocks into a tree full of tangerines, which then fall into her basket. Handa then greets Akeyo and hands her to the basket, which to her surprise is full of tangerines!

      I found this book very educational as many children have never heard of the fruits and animals that mentioned within this book, for example a passion fruit, a guava, an avocado, and an antelope. It can also be used to help children with counting, for example prior to reading the story to the pre-school children, I placed all of the fruit in a basket allowing the children to take away the correct fruit at the same time as the animal takes the fruit away from Handa's basket. I then asked the children how many fruits are now left in the basket, therefore encouraging them to count. I felt that the children were very engaged in the story and it prompted much discussion surrounding the fruit and the animals and also into the reason why Handa was carrying a basket on her head.


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        02.09.2010 10:56
        Very helpful



        A fantastic book which involves animals food and people, may make children laugh a little.

        A great book for young children, with very simple language it is ideal for children who are learning to read. Where it also has very visual picture which are full of colour and fill every page. It's great for teaching children about different cultures as it is based in Africa, it includes a different races of people and will take the reader on a journey where there are many things which they will discover and it provides them and a parent/guardian who is reading the book with the children great steping stones for questioning from both parties.
        the content of the book; A child of a village in Africa collecting fruit for her family and village. On the way some cheeky wildlife decide to steal the fruit from her basket to eat for themselves, yet as she approaches her village and is stood under a goat rampages into a tree to release the fruit here. This then falls into her basket, where on arrival to the village she removes the basket from her head to find that it is full of tangerines.
        children may find the animals taking of the fruit amusing as Handa is completely unaware.


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        19.06.2010 14:06
        Very helpful



        great childrens book

        My son acquired this book through the sure start programme when he was about three years old. Over the past two years, Handa's surprise has remained one of his favourite books.

        ** The Story **

        The story is set in Kenya and is about a young girl, called Handa. Handa is picking lots of fruit to take to her friend Akeyo, once Handa fills up her basket with a variety of delicious fruit she starts he journey to Akeyo's village, however whilst walking, various different animals take bits of fruit from the basket, which Handa is unaware of, when the basket becomes empty, an antelope bangs into a tree and fills the basket with tangerines... Luckily for Handa, tangerines are Akeyo's favourite fruit and her friend is delighted.

        ** Illustration **

        This book is lovely and colourful and farley realistic, the amount of detail within the pictures is lovely and really helps your child to imagine the story.

        ** Wording **

        My son finds the names quite hard to sound out, however he is only 5 and just started learning to read.

        The story isn't too long, so I think once your child familiarises themselves with the story and words they will soon be able to successfully read most of the story.

        ** Price and Availability **

        This book is available on a variety of online shops and retails for approximately £5.99, however it is on amazon.co.uk for £2.50.

        ** Overall Opinion **

        I think this is a lovely story that appeals to most children I also think it gives your child a realistic perception of what life is like for children living in villages etc.

        My son enjoyed all the cheeky animals who took Handa's fruit and found it quite amusing.

        I wouldn't say this book is directly educational, but for me that's a bonus as I think children can be overwhelmed with educational books, TV shows etc and this book just allows them to have fun, my son has never had a book set in Africa before so I received quite a few questions after about where it was etc, I found this nice as the book had obviously interested my son.

        The quality of this book is fantastic, the cover is colourful and hardwearing and the pages are glossy.

        Overall I would rate this book 5/5.


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        26.04.2010 21:11
        Very helpful



        A lovely read

        Handa's Surprise wrote by Eileen Brown.

        I have purchased this story in paperback from Amazon for only £4.50, a bargain!

        The story is based in Africa (I think). Handa, a young friendly girl decides one day that she is going to take some fruit to her friend Akeyo as a surprise. She decides to add seven different types to her basket as she is unsure of what type she will want.

        As she places the banana, pineaple, mango, guava, orange, avacado and
        passion fruit into her basket and begins the walk to her friends neighbouring village a monkey pinches the banana, an osterich sneaks the guava, the zebra pinches the orange, the elephant sneaks the mango, the giraffe gets the pineapple, the antelope pinches the advacado and a bird sneaks the passion-fruit.

        Unknown to Handa her basket is now empty... until an antelope breaks free from a lead and rams a tree which causes hunderds of tangerines to fall.

        When Handa arrives at the village, Akeyo is over the moon with her gift of tangerines ..and it's a surprise to Handa too.

        The story is great for children and helps small ones realise that there are different types of fruit other than the commonly known ones.

        The story has few words and a lot of illustration leaving a lot to your childrens imagination.

        The RRP of this book is £7.99 however it can be purchased for around £5.00 from most book stores or Amazon.


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        21.04.2010 11:07
        Very helpful



        My Sister Loves This Book And So Do I!

        My 2 year old sister got Handa's Surprise with a few other books for Xmas, the copy she has got came with a short DVD that has got the Handa's Surprise story and another one called Handa's Hen.

        It's a dead cute story, Handa lives in Africa and she goes to visit her friend Akeyo in another village. She takes her a basket of fruit and puts 7 different yummy fruits in a basket that she carries on top of her head. As she walks along though different wild animals steal the fruit, I always feel sorry for Handa when that happens because she chose the fruit carefully and had a wicked selection of mangoes, pineapples, bananas and other exotic stuff.

        Then just when her basket is completely empty a goat charges into a tree as she is passing and knocks LOADS of tangerines off the tree.... and they also fill up Handa's basket again! And it's lucky because Akeyo loves tangerines and is very happy when Handa gets there.

        I think this is a wicked book and I'm glad my sister got it for Xmas. It's brill that it's set in Africa because it starts showing my sister that there is more in the world than just England, Handa and all the people you see are dressed in traditional African clothes and they're bright colours and look way different to the sort of clothes my sister has seen.

        There is only 1 or 2 lines of writing on each page so the story is short enough to read in a few minutes but the pictures are so good that you can add bits to the story to make it last longer. I always talk to my sister about the pictures and we laugh at the animals stealing the fruit but then my sister always says "Poor Handa" because it's a shame that her present is being stolen.

        Handa, Akeyo and the animals are all drawn proper good and the expression on Handa's face when she sees her basket full of tangerines instead of the other fruit is brill! lol

        I deffo recommend this book for little kids, this copy is a normal paper book and that's good because we're just getting my sister out of board books now she's getting bigger and the pages are quite thick in Handa's Surprise so she's not likely to rip them by accident. The only bad thing about the book is the front cover because it folds back on itself and I reckon that's the part that will end up getting ripped first because it flies open when my sister picks the book up.

        Recommended...... helping toddlers learn a bit about life in African villages and this is a silly but mega cute story.


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          15.10.2009 12:20
          Very helpful



          An essential book for any young child.

          ***Handa's Surprise***

          I was working in the school library, when I stumbled across this book - it brought back memories of when I used to read it both to my own children and also the children in my class.

          ***What is it all about?***

          This is a beautifully illustrated picture book published by Walker Books. It starts with a foreword that says " The children featured in this book are from the Luo tribe of South West Kenya.

          It tells the tale of Handa. She decides to walk to see her friend Akeyo and with her she carries 7 fruits which she thinks Akeyo may like. Now the journey is long way and she carries the fruit on her head in a basket. Along the way she passes many animals, who help themselves to the fruit out of her basket and it looks as if she will have nothing by the time she arrives to see her friend.

          However, all is not lost and something surprising happens to mean that she does not arrive empty handed.


          This is a beautiful book and so much fun for the children reading it, because they can see that Handa has no idea what is going on with her fruit basket, while she walks.

          I also like the fact that children are introduced to more unusual fruits, which they might not have come across before, such as mango, avocado and pineapple.

          The pictures are the main focus of the book and are vibrant and alive with colour; in the main there is just one line of text to accompany two pages, so that children can easily follow the words as you read. The use of colour is perfect in giving the feeling of the hot African climate.

          There are plenty of examples of good adjectives in use, such as "sweet-smelling guava" and so it introduces some new vocabulary to children which they might not have come across before.

          There is also a good range of early punctuation such as the use of ellipses etc

          There are also two cream coloured pages at the end with simple illustrations of different animals, which can be discussed with the children.

          It is also a good book for counting and also introducing early subtraction, as the fruit diminishes one by one.

          Of course the book is also useful for discussing different cultures in terms of dress etc. I would recommend this book for children in the Foundation Stage or Key Stage 1 (Although I am sure my older children would disagree!)


          The book is available from Amazon for only £3.58, which I think is a bargain. On Amazon there is also the "Look Inside" feature, so that you an get a feel for the book, before you buy.

          It contains 32 pages, so it is a nice length for early readers.


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            18.02.2008 20:14
            Very helpful



            Handas Surprise Lovely multicultural book

            The author of this book is Eileen Browne, Eileen was born and brought up in Birmingham. Eileen lived in London for over twenty years before moving to Wiltshire where she now lives. She worked as a school teacher and a youth worker before becoming an author and illustrator.

            Handa's Surprise is a really simple story set in Kenya, the children featured in this book are from the Luo tribe of south-west Kenya. It is a great multicultural book that is often used in pre-school, nursery and early years settings. It introduces children to unfamiliar places with different animals, foods and ways of life through words and pictures.

            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. But thanks to a variety of hungry animals, it's Handa who gets the surprise!

            Handa's Surprise is great to read in a group, children enjoy looking at the large colorful pictures and large text. At the back of the book are suggestions for useful and enjoyable ways of making the most of reading together:

            Describing food
            In the book, each fruit is described"soft yellow banana","round juicy orange"...Children can take it in turns to choose a fruit or vegetable and describe it.

            Children can use real or pretend fruit to play "shops". with your help they can make name and price labels and thy can set out a "counter" with kitchen scales and a box for toy money.

            Where we live
            talk to children about where we live and how it is different from Handa's country. Different animals, fruit, plants and how we dress differently.

            Handa's Surprise is beautifully illustrated with very colourful large pictures through out the book.

            Our Opinion

            For my group of children we bought different fruits, I got the children to pick things they had not tried before as well as their favourite fruit. We bought the fruit from our local fruit shop we choose pineapple, grapes, apples, limes, tangerines, guava, mango and bananas. The children took it in turns to describe the fruits (shape, feel/texture,taste, colour and smell) they really enjoyed this none of them had seen or tasted guava or mango before.

            Also in this series Handa's Hen which is another great multicultural book, both books are available in 21 dual languages.

            Thank's for reading may also be posted on other review sites.


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              09.03.2007 10:48
              Very helpful



              Handa wants to surprise her friend but ends up getting the surprise herself

              Author/Illustrator: Eileen Brown
              Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
              Published Date: July 1995
              No of Pages: 32
              Genre: Children's fiction
              Age Suitability: 2-5
              Awards: Short listed for the 1995 Sheffield Children's Book Award

              About the author
              Born in Birmingham, Eileen Browne has lived and worked in London for the past 20 years. Having worked both as a school teacher and as a youth worker, Eileen is well placed to know what children expect from their stories.

              Having her first book published in 1977 Eileen is a rare breed in that she not only writes her stories but also illustrates them. I think this goes some way to ensuring continuity within the story as she can then portray the scene she imagines as an author, through her illustrations.

              Eileen Browne is sensitive to the fact that some groups of people particularly are not represented well within literature and as a result goes out of her way to incorporate these individuals into her stories. An example of this can be found in the fact that many of her main characters are females. This is a reaction to learning that only 30% of children's books use little girls or women as their main characters. Her book Where's the bus? Was one of the first children books to use an all female cast of animal characters.

              Other books but Eileen Browne include Handa's Hen, (the sequel to Handa's Surprise) Through the Window, Tick Tock and No Problem and Where's the Bus?

              What's Handa's Surprise About?

              Handa, a young girl from an African village decides to bring her friend Akeyo, who lives in a neighbouring village a surprise. She puts seven delicious fruits into a basket to take to her friend and sets off with the basket perched on top of her head, on the walk to her friend's village.

              As she walks, wondering out loud which fruit will be Akeyo's favourite, Animals peek out of various hiding places to steal the pieces of fruit one by one without Handa noticing. We meet a monkey, ostrich zebra, elephant, giraffe, antelope and parrot along the way. As Handa gets closer to her friends' home and oblivious to the empty basket she is now carrying, Handa luckily crosses under a tangerine tree just as a goat charges the tree filling the basket with juicy tangerines. As she greets Akeyo ready to show her the lovely fruit she has brought for her, it is Handa who gets the surprise when she realises the fruit she had filled the basket with has been replaced by a heap of tangerines. It's a good thing Akeyo's favourite fruit is Tangerines!

              The illustrations are done in great detail using fantastic colours which combine the earthy tones you associate with parts of Africa with the bright colours children respond so well to. Handa is a beautiful girl and her features have been painted with great care taking into account all the cultural detail you would expect to find. I love this girl's face - her eyes are kind and her smile is contented and you really get a feel for who this girl is through the pictures.

              The animals are also painted exquisitely and accurately as is the scenery painted as a back drop to the story.

              What I like about this book
              It is nice to see a children's book that looks at different cultures for a change. We expect our kids to grow up to accept everyone as equals, but that is only realistic if they are exposed to all kinds of different cultures, religions, sexualities etc from as early an age as possible. I want my kids to grow up appreciating what can be learnt from different lifestyle and this book is a great first step.

              There is also a great educational slant on this book as far as learning about animals and fruits that are perhaps a bit more exotic than your standard farm animals or the fruit we find in our local Asdas. It says something about the book that I can go shopping with my 2 year old sun now and he can point out a passion fruit or a Guava to me.

              The book also promotes consideration and the value of friendships. How many of us would walk barefoot with a basket of fruit on our heads just to give a friend a nice surprise? I am not suggesting we pack our little ones off for a day's journey delivering delicacies or anything, but we could all benefit from showing our children the benefit of human kindness.

              What my son likes about this book
              My boy loves pointing out the different animals and matching them to the fruit they pinched from the basket. He has also developed a fondness for Handa and strokes her face and coos' "Ahhh" when I first open the book.

              All in all, this is a lovely book with a difference and I only wish there were more like it. I applaud Eileen Browne for challenging the stereotype so often found in children's literature today


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                22.12.2006 11:56
                Very helpful
                1 Comment



                Good children's book with strong multicultural values

                Handa's Surprise

                Like many people who work or live with children Eileen Browne thought that she would be able to write a successful children's book. After all, all you need to do is write a couple of lines per page, create an attractive central character and throw in some moral or life lesson and bob's your uncle, royalty cheques by the busload. The reality is somewhat different, and when something looks deceptively easy it's because it is anything but easy. Fortunately, Browne is an excellent children's author (as well as an accomplished illustrator) and has now produced several very good books. Her publications include 'Through the Window', 'Tick Tock' and 'Where's that Bus?' but probably her most famous book, and certainly her most successful, is 'Handa's Surprise'. With many years educational experience behind her she had very clear ideas about the books she wanted to produce. She had expressed concern that characterisation in children's books was very narrow and wanted her work to incorporate more female characters and those from different cultural backgrounds.

                The story ~
                Handa is a young girl (she looks about eight) who lives in a small village. One day she decides to take some fruit to her friend, Akeyo, in another village as a present. She loads a basket with pineapple, avocado, guava, passion fruit, banana, orange and mango and sets off, basket on head, on her journey. As she walks along a variety of animals take a piece of fruit each until she is left with nothing. On approaching her friend's village a goat charges at a fruit tree shaking loose a load of tangerines into her basket, Handa hasn't noticed any of this as she has been wondering which fruit Akeyo would like best. When she reaches her friends village, Akeyo is very pleased to receive the present and it is Handa who gets the surprise when she sees all her original fruit has been replaced.

                The illustrations are large and colourful and complement the story perfectly. Artistically accurate rather than cartoons they provide plenty of opportunity for discussion around the story as you go through. A clever touch is that on several pages the next animal can be glimpsed - in a tree, or hiding in long grass - and happy is the clever child who can spot these.

                In use ~
                When I say this is a simple story, I mean it is a very simple story. Each double-page spread contains a big picture and a single line of text. As she's walking along she is thinking about the present she is carrying and wondering which will be most liked; '… the soft yellow banana' on one page, or '… the sweet smelling guava' on the next. As she thinks about each fruit an animal reaches over and takes it.
                The simplicity of the story makes it very accessible for young toddlers and is a great way to introduce animals and more exotic fruit. For early talkers it is useful for broadening vocabulary and naming fruits such as avocado and guava will be quite challenging. It can also be useful for counting and early maths, particularly subtraction, as the fruits are taken one by one.

                For older children through Reception and Year 1 the story can be used as a familiar reference for discussing multi-cultural topics but it is unlikely to hold their attention on its own.

                Availability ~
                The book is published by Walker Books and is available in most book shops; it is currently on Amazon for £4.49. Like most successful children's books it can be bought in a variety of formats including soft cover, hardback and audio CD.

                Opinion ~
                This is a delightful book that most children will enjoy. Much loved by nursery and reception teachers it is one that most children will come across at some stage. It is on regular rotation in our house and my daughter shows no sign of tiring of it, and neither have I tired of reading it.


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                  11.12.2006 19:05
                  Very helpful
                  1 Comment



                  A vibrantly illustrated book

                  This is a very good multi-cultural book for young children.

                  ~ Eileen Browne ~

                  Eileen Browne worked as a teacher and a youth worker before becoming an author and illustrator.

                  She once said that "certain groups of people are not well represent in books. Females only feature as main characters in around a third of children's books, because of this I give them priority."

                  She has written and illustrated some 'ground-breaking', different books, e.g. 'Through my Window' (1986) was the first ever picture book in Britain to feature a child with a black mother and white father.

                  Eileen Browne has written and/or illustrated many books, probably her most well-known is Handa's Surprise.

                  ~ Handa's Surprise ~

                  Handa is an African girl who is part of a tribe in Kenya.

                  At the beginning of the story Handa puts seven delicious fruits in a basket for her friend Akeyo.

                  As she sets off for Akeyo's village with the fruit basket on her head, Handa wonders which fruit her friend will like best.

                  'Will she like the soft yellow banana..............' at this point, there is a picture of a monkey leaning out of the tree who picks out the banana without Handa realising.

                  'or the sweet -smelling guava?' This time an ostrich reaches out it's long neck to grab hold of the guava, again Handa has no idea.

                  This continues with the different types of fruits, each one being taken by an animal, native to Handa's part of the world.

                  When there is nothing left in her basket, a goat breaks free of it's rope and hurtles in to a tangerine tree. The tangerines clatter down and Handa ends up with a basketful of tangerines.

                  Still totally unaware of this, Handa arrives at her friend's village and tells Akeyo that she has a surprise for her.

                  When she takes the basket down, it's actually Handa who gets a surprise as the 7 original fruits have been replaced with tangerines!

                  ~ Illustrations ~

                  This book is beautifully illustrated, each page glows with the heat of the African sun.

                  The animals are so life-like and I particularly like the parrot with it's rich and vibrant colours.

                  ~ Style and Format ~

                  This is great for children from 3 upwards.
                  The text is very limited, generally just one sentence per double page whereas there is an illustration on each page.

                  I find the first and last pages very useful as it names all of the fruits and animals in the book, very handy, if like me you aren't great with fruit and animal knowledge!

                  Children particularly like the idea that they know what is going on, i.e. the animals stealing the fruit even though Handa doesn't.

                  ~ Educational Value ~
                  * Great for counting, especially subtraction as you ask how many are in the basket now as each piece of fruit is taken.
                  * Good for naming more unusual fruits: banana, guava, orange, mango, pineapple, avocado pear, passion fruit & tangerine.
                  I actually took in some of the fruits mentioned in the book so that the children could have a taste of them if they wanted to.
                  * Great for naming animals: monkey, ostrich, zebra, elephant, giraffe, antelope, parrot & goat.
                  * A multi-cultural theme. Looking at the clothes Handa and her friend wear, how Handa carries the fruit etc....

                  ~ Additional Info ~

                  Handa's surprise is also available in big book format which is great for reading to a large group of children.
                  There is also an audiobook available on CD. This has music, games and activities based on Handa's surprise and Handa's Hen.

                  ~ Price ~

                  My paperback was £4.99 ISBN: 0-7445-3634-0 but amazon are selling used and new copies from just 1p!

                  ~ My verdict ~

                  This is a beautifully illustrated book with a simple story line. The drawings and bright colours really appeal to children.
                  However some of the children I have read it to have questioned how Handa didn't realise that the basket was getting lighter as more and more of the fruit was being stolen and how she didn't feel all of the tangerines falling in to the basket!

                  Despite this, if you are looking for a multi-cultural book then look no further.


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                • Product Details

                  Handa puts seven delicious fruits in a basket to take to her friend, Akeyo. But as she walks, carrying the basket on her head, various creatures steal her fruits. A monkey takes the banana, an ostrich the guava, a zebra the orange, an elephant the mango, a giraffe the pineapple, an antelope the avocado and a parrot the passion fruit. Handa walks on, wondering which of the fruits her friend will like best, oblivious to the fact that her basket is now empty. But then, behind her, a goat charges into a tangerine tree and fills Handa's basket with the fruit. Hello, Akeyo, she greets her friend. I've brought you a surprise. But when she lifts off her basket, it's Handa who gets the biggest surprise. Akeyo, meanwhile, is delighted, because tangerines are her favourite fruit! Eileen Browne also created Through My Window which was shortlisted for the Smarties Book Prize (1986), No Problem, Tick Tock and Where's my Bus?.

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