Books for newly fluent independent readers often have great pace (to entice just one more page turn) and lovely characterization (encouraging growing kids to explore their own unfurling wings), but books for this age group with turns of phrases and fine, fine threads of words which make your heart sing are quite unusual.
And yet, Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea written by Polly Faber (@Pollylwh) and illustrated by Clara Vulliamy (@ClaraVulliamy) has all of this, plus buckets more. Illustrated on every spread with immense charm, humour and warmth, and with an overall design to make small hands hug it close to their heart, this little hardback is everything you’d dream of, if trying to come up with something to foster an association of sheer joy and enchantment with books.
Mango Allsorts and her best friend Bambang (a friend who just happens to be a tapir) are looking for a new hobby, and would you believe it, but it turns out that after failures with ballet and baking, flamenco dancing hits the spot.
Bambang, however, doesn’t get the chance to attend many lessons before an escapade involving climbing trees (there’s nothing a tapir can’t do when it comes to snaffling cake), a diamond engagement ring and a devious neighbour result in Bambang being put behind bars, not just once, but twice! Will the friends be able to use Bambang’s new dancing prowess and Mango’s clever problem-solving skills to save the day? Or could it be that their very partnership is put in peril as a result of Bambang’s newly discovered skill?
Joyous, open-hearted and very funny, these tales of Mango and Bambang are simply brilliant. A charismatic exploration of friendship, with a dash of quirkiness and oodles of wit, along with endearing illustrations (reminding me of Joyce Lankester Brisley and her Milly Molly Mandy books) that really draw out the beauty of the stories, Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea is utterly delightful. My girls and I are really hoping that this second set of tales featuring Mango and Bambang won’t be the last.
If you spend any time at all hanging out with Clara Vulliamy you’ll very quickly learn that she is the Queen of Secret Haberdashery Supplies. I know of no other author or illustrator who has such an eye for beautiful ribbons, notions and buttons. With this in mind the girls and I wanted to create something Mango and Bambang-y which Clara herself (and, of course, Polly too) might enjoy making and thus we came up with the idea of designing flamenco costumes. This quickly developed into puppets of Mango, Bambang and friends all dress up in flamenco finery.
Generous as ever, Clara allowed the girls and me to adapt some of the images from Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea to create paper dolls which we cut out and stuck on cardboard (you can download them here as a single pdf file).
Then we designed our flamenco costumes, colouring in the dolls and adding ribbons and trims, flowers and fans.
Finally our friends were ready to dance!
And dance we all did:
- Tamacun by Rodrigo y Gabriela (this is what you can hear in the background to the video above)
- Leyenda by Albeniz played by Andres Segovia
- Paco Peña and his show Flamenco sin Fronteras
- A just for fun… a bit of fancy footwork from Joaquín Cortés
Other activities which might work well alongside reading Mango & Bambang: Tapir All at Sea include:
- Making a sailor’s cap like Bambang wears. Here’s a video tutorial (just swap the blue paint for red!)
- Baking sticky ginger cake. My very favourite sticky ginger cake comes from Argos Bakery in Stromness, but as that’s a bit far for many of us to travel, here’s a recipe from Delia, and another from Nigella
- Creating your own Museum of the Unusual. Of course, I wouldn’t encourage you to be as mean as Dr Cynthia Prickly-Posset, but starting a collection of things you find weird and wonderful (without resorting to stealing them from your neighbours!) is a fun idea. Maybe your museum will be full of strange shaped stones, or bizarre things you’ve found down the back of the sofa… If you’re looking for some display ideas for your museum, you might find inspiration in past museums we’ve created here, here and here
Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.