Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mama Panya's Pancakes

Mama Panya's Pancakes

A Village Tale from Kenya

written by Mary and Rich Chamberlin

illustrated by Julia Cairns

Mama Panya douses the breakfast fire and prepares to head to the market to get the meager supplies she can afford at the moment for making Pancakes for dinner.

Her son Adika, dressed in his finest shirt and cleanest shorts is all set to go with her. On the way, they meet old man Mzee Odolo quietly fishing by the river. Adika couldn't stop himself, he invites Mzee Odolo to come over and have Mama's pancakes that evening. Then, they meet Sawandi and Naiman, Adika's friends, herding cattle. Again, Adika simply couldn't stop himself from inviting them both for Mama's pancakes. Mama Panya is slightly exasperated wondering how she is going to stretch the flour to feed them all...

They finally reach the market where Adika spots Gamila at her plantain stand and rushes to greet her. And, you guessed right, he invites her for Mama's pancake fest too! Thus he ends up inviting Bibi and Bwana Zawenna at the flour stand and even Rafiki Kaya at the chili pepper stand. By now, Mama Panya is quite at a loss, fingering the two small coins she has, about how to get enough ingredients to make pancakes for all their friends.

They head home together with the flour and chili pepper that Mama Panya's two coins could buy, with Adika skipping happily ahead, looking forward to seeing all their friends that evening and sharing Mama Panya's pancakes with them.

As Mama Panya prepares the batter and lights the fire to make pancakes, their friends start filing in one by one. Sawandi and Naiman arrive first handing over two drinking gourds full of milk and a pail of butter explaining, "Mama Panya, we have extra from our cattle". Then, Mzee Odolo arrives dangling three fish declaring, "Old-man river has given us three fish today". Gamila arrives with a bunch of ripe plantain bunch perched on her head suggesting, "They go very well with pancakes". Bibi and Bwanna Zawenna quietly hand a bag of extra flour to Adika asking him to save it for later. And finally Rafiki Kaya arrives with handfuls of salt and cardamom, plus her thumb piano.

Although this tale is from Kenya, it could just as well be from India. The story about a little boy and his mother trying to stretch their food to feed all their friends has a certain universal and heart-warming quality to it, leaving it ageless and priceless. Clearly, the friends know Mama Panya's situation, and when they chip in generously without any hint of charity, it becomes such an affirmative and cheerful tale.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, conveying the essence of Kenyan village life and culture, almost transporting us as we walk along with them to the market. Adika's excitement about pancakes, which clearly seems like a special treat, crosses over to us readers/listeners easily; plus his generous invitations and easy charm instantly make him adorable.

Added bonus: Facts about Kenyan village life, local flora/fauna, recipe for pancakes, even a map at the end of the book make it quite an interesting lesson in geography, culture and wildlife. Kiswahili greetings was our favorite page where Ana and I tried sounding out the words as best as we could. It is an extremely rewarding read-aloud book, where we pause long on each page to absorb the scenery and emotion as we learn new things about Kenya.


sathish said...

That was very nice to read. Sounds like a very interesting book.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post! Dropping by...

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