Handa’s Noisy Night

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Eileen Browne, Handa’s Noisy Night, Walker Books Ltd, September 2019, 32pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781406320015

This is the third book about Handa by prolific British author Eileen Browne. Handa’s Surprise (1999), remains a bestseller and was selected one of best culturally diverse UK children’s books in 2014. Handa’s Hen followed in 2003, with Handa’s Noisy Night a new addition.

Browne is committed to diversity in children’s literature. The Handa books depict two friends, Handa and Akeyo, who are children of the Luo tribe of south-west Kenya. (The author acknowledges assistance from the Kenyan High Commission.) In this episode Handa is spending the night at Akeyo’s place, in a small hut of their own near the family home. Once the girls retire to hut for the night Handa is surprised by a number of noises, which Akeyo explains away: snorting? “It’s Dad,” says Akeyo. “He snorts when he laughs.”

This goes on through chattering (Mum playing the shaker); rattling (Grandad wheeling his bike); slurping (Nan drinking milk), and so on. On the opposite page we can see the real culprits: pig, fox, porcupine, bat, generously spread across the full page without borders or white space. All sixteen animals and birds are sketched in miniature across the end pages.

The illustrations are lustrous and full of golden light for daytime, or indoors at night, whilst the creature illustrations at night are still quite glowing but backed with a blue, moonlit sky. The people are depicted realistically, and all is beautifully detailed and coloured.

Handa’s Noisy Night is a satisfying story, following some tried and tested story book strategies, and with a bit of nature study thrown in.

Reviewed by Marita Thomson

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