This is a beautifully designed book with four stories about a girl called Mango Allsorts and her meeting and subsequent friendship with Bambang, a Malaysian tapir (definitely not a pig!) who finds himself alone and frightened in the middle of a big city.
The two main characters are both memorable and very appealing. When we first meet Bambang he is hiding and trembling in a busy street fearful of a possible tiger attack. The four stories describe his experiences as he realises he is safe and discovers the joys of city life, from snorkelling in swimming pools to sliding down bannisters in apartment blocks. Mango is a strong character who lives up to her surname by being good at all sorts of things, from chess to karate to cooking noodles and banana pancakes. She is brave enough to jump gracefully from the highest board at the swimming pool, take control of tricky situations when the adults around her are panicking and rescues Bambang when he is captured by the forbidding Dr Cynthia Prickle Posset, who has a penchant for collecting curiosities (such as Asian tapirs). But most of all Mango is good at being a friend to Bambang, making him feel safe and happy. There is one thing Mango is not good at however and that is playing the clarinet. When she has to perform in a concert it is Bambang’s opportunity to help her in return.
There is a touch of humour here, in particular at the expense of adults such as policemen and swimming pool attendants trying to keep control of the situation as an Asian tapir runs amok. Magical realism features too with a lump in the road revealing an exotic creature hiding under a zebra crossing. With themes of friendship, bravery and suspicion of the unfamiliar, there is much to discuss and think about here. This would make a great book to read aloud to children and also an engaging independent read for young readers developing confidence.
Mango and Bambang has amusing and appealing illustrations which enhance the story. The varied page design, layout, font and use of colour with a limited and very stylish palette of black, white and mauve plus a touch of gold on the cover add to its impact. This is a very attractive book which could make a special gift.
Children will enjoy meeting Mango and Bambang in the first book in the series and will eagerly await more adventures.