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Handa spends the night at her friend Akeyo’s house and hears sounds throughout the night.

Handa and Akeyo, children of the Luo people of Kenya, are excited to sleep in the hut (evidently an outbuilding—it is unclear what kind of structure the main house is). Once inside, they lay out their mats, have a snack, and play games. Meanwhile, all sorts of sounds reach them from outside the hut. When Handa hears snorting, Akeyo says it’s just her father laughing, but readers see a view of a pig outside. When Handa hears chattering, Akeyo says the grown-ups are talking, but the illustration shows a group of bat-eared foxes outside. The noises and explanations continue, with each image of the children inside facing a view of an animal outside, as the two get ready for bed and lie down to sleep. In the morning, when Akeyo accuses her family of being noisy and they say they were quiet as mice, the two friends look out at readers as they ask, “So who was making the noise?” Handa and Akeyo are sympathetic protagonists, and the vividly illustrated creatures of the night will intrigue child readers. The persistent comparison of Akeyo’s family members to animals, however, is both ludicrous—these children have presumably heard these sounds all their lives and must know what they are—and somewhat unsettling, particularly from the perspective of a European author/illustrator. The page turns and layouts are disappointingly predictable and fail to create a suspenseful, dramatic story rhythm.

This book’s few strengths are sadly underutilized.

(Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1489-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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