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The author of the book: Eileen Browne
ISBN: 1846113016
ISBN 13: 9781846113017
Language: English
Format files: PDF
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Reader ratings: 6.3
The size of the: 2.25 MB
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Edition: Mantra Records
Date of issue: October 1st 2008

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I can see why this one is popular with schools, at least in the UK. The National Curriculum is more and more focused on cultural diversity, and most books for little kids are about white British kids or white American kids. Here is a book about a black African girl, in Africa.

However, as I read it, I very much got the sense of 'This has been written by a white Brit who has probably never even been to Africa.' It follows the conventions of British children's picture books. The same sort of story - involving food, involving animals, involving naming and identifying the animals. Except that the food and animals are those you'd find in Africa - African fruit and African animals.

The story is of a little girl, Handa, who selects various fruit to put in a basket on her head and take to her friend, Akeyo. It's a cute story - various animals steal the fruit during this Handa's journey and she doesn't realise, and she is about to reach Akeyo with no fruit in her basket at all when another animal shakes a tree and lots of tangerines fall into the basket - so both Akeyo and Handa are surprised when she takes the basket off her head. It's a funny surprise - I can imagine kids enjoying the story. It's a good story, with lovely pictures. I can imagine reading it to children (here in the UK, at least!) and getting them really involved in the story. But in terms of cultural difference, the only difference between this book and British books are the various stereotypes that Brits have of Africans - they carry things on their heads, they have lots of fun animals, they have lots of exotic fruit.

I found myself wondering what an actual African girl who lives in Africa would think of the story. Maybe 'Why would someone be taking fruit to their friend when there is an abudance of fruit growing wild here?' Or 'How would someone not realise that the weight of the basket on their head had changed?' I don't know. I'm not African and have never been to Africa. But if I am to read a book about an African person in Africa, I think I'd far rather it had been written by an African person in Africa. I imagine it would be a completely different sort of book - it wouldn't fit into all the British ideas of what makes a good children's story. It would take people (more likely the adults than the children!) out of their comfort zones. And to me that would be a good thing.


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