When I picked up this picture book from the library, my first reaction was: "oh crap." The title was in Arabic and because I only learned the everyday language that is Latin throughout junior high and high school, I figured I would have to read this book like the three year olds it's meant for and just look at the pretty pictures. But there was an English translation alongside the Arabic within the book, so all was good.
The story is simple: Handa is bringing fruits to her friend Akeyo, but on her journey, animals keep sneaking up and stealing the fruit from her basket. But within the story, this little picture book covers a lot. It teaches animal types, fruits, colors, counting, sharing, and hey, a new language (assuming they don't know it already)! Apparently this book is available in about 20 languages, which is a pretty nifty dynamic to add to a picture book.
I read this to a three year old to get her perspective on the story because as much as I act like a 3 year old, I'm far too cynical to have their exact outlook on life. Results: a lot of laughing, a lot of pretending she was the animals in the book and a lot of asking what sound a zebra makes. So all in all, Eileen Browne's picture book is an effective read for the kiddies. If you don't mind toddlers bouncing off the walls pretending they're animals in the book (and out of the book), then I say go for it, but probably not as a bedtime story.
Handa's Surprise would also be a great multicultural project in a library where kids can research the animals, land, and fruit that's held between the covers of the book. I actually found an adorable video on Youtube of students performing this story dressed as the animals in the story. Basically, this book can be fun reading or the subject of lesson plans galore and should definitely be kept in any children's library.