Mama Panya's Pancakes, by Mary and Rich Chamberlin

I quite like children's books that not only entertain and play on the heart but also educate - as long as they do so with a lightness of touch that makes them pleasant to read aloud.

Mama Panya's Pancakes is subtitled A Village Tale from Kenya and the idea of giving my five-year old some insight into east African life was part of the reason for choosing it. It might have been more appealing in that respect if the author had a Kenyan name, but I rarely pay much attention to who writes the children's books I read so the fear of patronising tones that "Chamberlin" might instill didn't put me off. And I'm glad it didn't.

This is a really pleasant tale of a mother and son meeting friends on fair day. Adika, the son, starts inviting everyone they bump into to come over to his house for pancakes, while his mother, Panya, worries about not having enough to go round. But she needn't worry, of course, because guests always bring gifts.

A sunny version of life in Kenya is presented, which is as you'd expect in a children's book, and Julia Cairns' illustrations, while very accomplished, are a little predictable. But overall, it's a decent read, the writing is smooth, and the taste of another culture you get is very well incorporated: names of people, habitat, activities, food, clothes etc.

At the end of the book, you get a few pages of factual information about Kenya, and this too is well pitched for the readership and not dull. Finally, you get Mama Panya's Pancake recipe, which is, interestingly, flavoured with cardamom and chilli - not something my five-year old would go for, but that's the point really.

iii = three thumbs up from us. Buy it here >>>>

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