Over the past two weeks, we have been focusing our activities around the story of Handa’s Surprise. It’s a short story, based in Africa, where Handa wants to take a basket of fruits to her friend Akeyo. On the way to Akeyo’s village, animals hiding in the savannah steal the fruits from Handa’s basket which she carries on her head. Just before she arrives, a goat headbutts into a tangerine tree just as Handa passes underneath and her basket gets filled up with them. The surprise is as much Akeyo’s as it’s Handa’s.
The story is quite short, few sentences, describing the seven delicious fruits Handa puts in her basket. The animals are not mentioned in words just in illustrations, beautiful colourful images that fascinate the children every time.
Now you know a bit about the story you might have guessed this book club session was a very special one as we decided to act it out.
First we dressed up. We are lucky enough to have quite a selection of gorgeous African traditional costumes. Ahh, I just love the lively colours, beautiful patterns, sequins and tailoring. The children looked beyond cute.
Being set in Africa was a very good incentive to talk to the children about the different aspects of life between countries in Europe and Africa. On a map, we located where we live opposite to where Handa and Akeyo live.
The previous day we went shopping and bought all the fruits Handa put in her basket so we had that ready. And lastly, we looked for the animals in the toy box -zebra, elephant, giraffe, goat…
Everything set we went in the garden and sat in a circle around the fruit basket, book and animals to remind ourselves of the story. Having read it so many times in these two weeks, the children know it very well. We decided who is going to be Handa and Akeyo, and who will play the animal parts.
Our Handa even tried to carry the basket on her head and walked past the animals that stole her fruits before getting to Akeyo with a basket full of tangerines.
The children enjoyed themselves very much, especially handling the fruits and tasting them after. Some of the fruits, such as the passion fruit or the guava were unknown to them but I’m very proud to say they were very open about trying them, some even declared that those are their new favourites. The avocado was the least popular and the tangerines were most loved.
The session finished with a colouring and sorting fruits activity.
This story is perfect for introducing awareness of different lifestyles between cultures from surroundings to clothes wear, food, climate, vegetation, fauna. Learning new words means developing a child’s vocabulary, talking about new places sparks imagination and the beautiful imagery brings to life such a simple but lovable story.