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Book Review - The Pandanus People
Nature and Toys
Companies that make children's toys look forward to December because it is gift buying time, but there are millions of children around who rely on nature to provide them with toys. Nature toys also teach them about their land, friendly and hostile animals and wild fruits and vegetables.
Nature is theme for The Pandanus People, a book written by Bronwen Scott-Branagan. I have never reviewed a children’s book before and I find myself in a quandary.
Can I honestly call it a children’s book, when there are so many things I didn’t know myself until I ‘turned’ the electronic pages?
The Pandanus People deals with current social issues such as obesity in children, their safety, recycling etc.
That is why I feel that it is more than a children’s book. It is also well-written, using similes and metaphors and other figures of speech, children and adults can relate to, like the ‘wind look angry.
The book, which the author dedicates to her grandchildren, is divided into five capsules or stories. We shall not count the sixth capsule because it contains notes for teachers and parents.
For starters, the book does not subscribe to the modern notion of ‘nuclear family’ where it is only parents and their kids. The Pandanus children, Billy and Jilly live with their mum and dad and their grandparents, on a branch of a tree.
The so-called ‘extended family’, is quite unusual in big cities globally, but grandparents still live with younger generations in rural Africa, India and Europe.
Kids and Nature
The Storm: Jilly, the daughter in The Pandanus People is afraid of the storm. She senses anger when the heavens open up and doesn’t understand why nature wants to hurt her.
Her mother explains why they need the rain. Her grandfather takes it to another level and uses food, the most important thing for human survival to explain this natural phenomenon.
“We Pandanus people like to eat thunder and lightning.”
This calms Jilly because she knows the role of food in human development. Although the little girl doesn’t say anything, she is proud of being part of a larger whole, the Pandanus people.
That is identity. Jilly will grow up knowing who she is and where she comes from. She will later on in life resist peer pressure to join online perverts, cults, gangs or any other grouping because she will not rely on outsiders to define her.
Teachers and parents using this book, can spend a whole thirty minutes on identity. I was able to weather a lot of storms in my turbulent life because my family stressed I was beautiful and clever.
Billy, the son in the book, is unkind to Milly, who lives next door. He refuses to play with her because she is fat.
His grandfather scolds him and asks him to point a finger at him. The grandfather makes Billy realise that while he is pointing a finger at Milly, saying she is fat, the other fingers are pointing at him, Billy.
Obesity is a big concern for parents because it leads to playground taunts and abuse. Worse still, the internet is now rife with sites or people who claim to ‘love you’ no matter how you look.
What Billy’s grandfather said about name-calling is more of an adult, than a kid’s issue. Adults are very vicious when it comes to judgements they make based on race, gender, religion, body weight and economic status.
The book had a profound impact on me, especially the capsule on children’s creativity. Milly and Billy are very good at entertaining themselves, using natural things from their surrounding as toys.
This is universal because the author took the decision not to use any country. Milly and Billy are playing on a branch, which is their home. They decide to venture out and they need tools. They look around nature and they find means of transportation.
What is interesting is what they say about us, the ‘throw-away’ generation. I don’t want to give away all the goodies because you must read the book.
The author was kind enough to make notes for teachers and parents. They can also come up with unique ideas of making The Pandanus People relevant for their situation, in any country.
Drama: It will make a great play because the lines for characters are already in the book.
Toys: Teachers or parents can ask kids to identify toys in the book.
Disobedience: What are the consequences of not listening to parents and grandparents?
Unusual plants and fruits: Parents should tell children about unusual fruits and vegetables.
Seaweed: What is seaweed? Why is it important in the book? Which countries eat seaweed and why is it good for you?
Storytelling: Teachers can ask kids to substitute The Pandanus People for something else for example, The Kiwi People. It will depend on the unusual fruit or plants their parents told them about.
What I didn’t like about the book was serving the Pandanus mum breakfast in bed on her birthday. I feel that mothers should be appreciated every day, not just on birthdays and Mother’s Day.
Mothers in Australia, North America, Europe and other so-called developed countries are even in a worse situation because they do everything for the family.
Kids in so-called under-developed countries have chores, responsibilities. They take care of animals, their brothers and sisters, they wash and dress themselves, they play football and cricket with rudimentary toys they have created, and they know that an instruction is an instruction.
The Pandanus People. I have minimised it on my computer screen, for easy recall, when I want to be educated.