Mar 25, 2012

Mama Panya's Pancakes

Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Mary and Rich Chamberlin

Illutstrated by: Julia Cairns

Published by: Barefoot Books

Published on: March 1, 2006

In Janurary my kids and I had a few days at home due to illness. For the first time they watched Sesame Street, which is only on when they are at school and I am at work. It was strange to realize that my kids had never seen a show which was so integral to my youth.  The episode we saw was about Africa and my son, especially, was enthralled.  However, as much as I love Sesame Street, it's not exactly above taking some serious artistic licenses with information. I wanted my kids to have a little more knowledge about Africa than the idea that there are muppets there dancing around with fish on their heads.

That's when I ordered this book. It surpassed my expectations completely. It's very accessible to toddlers with its lyrical prose and dialogue that is fun to read aloud. Even the main character's name, Adika, is a joy for little kids to practice saying.

But on top of that, there is a wealth of information included. There are maps, information on the language Kiswahili and the nation of Kenya, and a recipe for the savoury pancaked Adika's mother makes. My kids loved making these pancakes together and were so surprised when they weren't sweet!

The story is about a generous and gregarious boy who walks with his mother to the market to buy food for dinner. He invited everyone he meets along for his mother's famous pancakes. She frets about how to feed all these people, but they make a pot luck meal with enough left over to smooth over some of the mother's worries for food over the next few days. It's a heart-warming story of generosity and community.

The vibrant illustrations portray a way of life so different to our own. My son loved to point out things that are so different in this book, but especially how much time people spend outside! They shop, cook, eat, relax, and entertain outside. The rich foliage in the back is different to that in our climate. Of course the amazing clothes are quite different to the clothes we wear as well as traditional Japanese dress. My son was fascinated.

Of course, this book does not gloss over the poverty in villages like this either. Money worries are central to Adika's mother's character. I felt how lucky I am not to have this worry.

This is a great book to introduce a lovely lesson about how to treat neighbours, as well as a little bit about a part of Africa, to children.

This book is the second I read for the Read the World Challenge.


  1. This does sound a wonderful book and I love the way your kids reacted to it. I love Julia Cairns' illustrations too, though I didn't know this book - thanks for the introduction.

    1. This is my first introduction to Julia Cairns' illustrations, and I am already a huge fan! She has some great cards available for sale on her site that I am coveting.

  2. I'm a big fan of this book too. Reads aloud so nicely.

    1. It does indeed. Makes mama's job so much more fun.

  3. this is a great book, we have it too. Africa is not a country is a brilliant introduction to Africa too, I have reviewed that and a couple of other Africa books too, you can find them here

    1. Oh Jo, what a brilliant roundup of books, those about Africa and others! I am going to copy you and Ebikun, especially those early readers!


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