Polly Faber makes her debut as a children's book author with the story of a girl and her tapir - or maybe the story of a tapir and her girl, Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig. Illustrated by the marvelous Clara Vulliamy, who, with her mother, the venerable British children's book author Shirley Hughes, created the Digby O'Day series, this new series has a similarly charming format that is perfect for emerging readers ready to move on to chapter books. Digby O'Day: In the Fast Lane and Digby O'Day and the Great Diamond Robbery feature illustrations on every page, great characters with intriguing details, fantastic design and a great story. Vulliamy, who is a very creative person with a website worth checking out (Sunny Side Up) is also a fan of felted animals. She commissioned dolls of Digby, Charlie and Digby's beloved red convertible as well as a cute little tapir - Bambang - which I first saw on her website last year.
My kids grew up going to one of the best zoos in the world. I have known what a tapir is for decades and was so excited to see that someone chose this curious looking animal to be a character in a book! But first, Mango and the rest of the cast, as seen below.
Mango Allsorts (allsorts is a licorice candy that comes in all sorts of shapes and colors . . .) is good at all sort of things, but, as the narrator tells us, "that is not the same as being good." She lives in a big city at the top of a very tall building with her "papa who was also tall and very busy." When his job gets especially tough, she makes him buttered noodles. Mango is also good at karate, jumping off the highest diving board (without holding her nose) using the Sicilian Defense in chess and wiggling her ears while sucking on a lollipop. She is not good at playing the clarinet, but she is practicing. One day, heading home from karate and hoping to cross using the striped crosswalk, she spots a commotion. There, perfectly camouflaged by the black and white stripes is a quivering, crying tapir whispering about a tiger that chased him out of the jungles of Malaysia.
Mango tempts the skittish Bambang, who sees tigers everywhere (construction trucks, cats) with the promise of banana pancakes with whipped cream and syrup and the two become fast friends. They head to the public pool where Bambang has a bit of an embarrassment that ends up with finding another new friend. Next, they meet an enemy. Dr. Cynthia Prickle-Posset, a Collector of the Unusual tries to collect Bambang, but Mango puts an end to that. The fourth and final part of the book finds Mango and Bambang performing on stage, overcoming their nerves, side by side.
Faber's Mango is fiercely confident and the perfect match for Bambang, who is anxious and shy, understandably. Vulliamy brings these characters to life marvelously with her black and white illustrations, accented with lavender in this first book. There is just enough information about tapirs in Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig that readers will know that tapirs are real and hopefully will want to know more about this curious looking animal. I can't wait to know more about the adventures that Mango and Bambang get up to in the next two books in the series!
If you loved Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig, or if you think you will, be sure to check out the Digby O'Day series that Vulliamy illustrates, written by her mother!