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The Neighbourhood Surprise focuses on a vegan and vegetarian themed going-away party for a much-loved neighbour!


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We loved this review of The Neighbourhood Surprise by Sarah Bickel from Youth Services Book Review! Check it out below!

The Neighborhood Surprise – by Sarah van Dongen, Tiny Owl, 9781910328712, 2021

Koya and her friends organise a vegan and vegetarian themed going-away party for Mrs Fig!

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? This is a great community story of intergenerational friendship. Kaya, Hassan, and Alex are children, and love spending time with their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Fig. When they learn she is moving, they decide to throw a neighborhood goodbye party for her. I especially like how they highlight different types of foods, including falafel and curry, and make sure to have both vegetarian and vegan food options for different people. The neighborhood shows diverse characters, including different skin colors, physical abilities (including a person in a wheelchair and a person using a cane), and religious head coverings. A variety of ages are also included, from babies, young children, older children, adults, and more elderly people, and all clearly enjoy spending time together. The illustrations include lots of details – like toys, pets, plants, kitchen utensils, books, Tibetan Prayer Flags, and more – to give a comfortable and lived in feel to the homes and the neighborhood. An author’s note at the end describes what vegan and vegetarian mean and some reasons why people may choose to be vegan or vegetarian.

Anything you did not like about the book. Since there is specific discussion of different types of food, including vegan and vegetarian food, it would have been nice to also include a few recipes of items made in the story.

To whom would you recommend this book? I would especially recommend this to kids who like to cook and eat different foods. It would also make a great read aloud with a community theme. Read-alike with Thank You, Omu! (Mora).

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: July 4, 2021


  • Watch the trailer for The Neighbourhood Surprise
  • Download: FREE Neighbourhood Surprise activities!
  • Watch an interview with Sarah van Dongen in her inspirational studio!
  • Read a blog: The Neighborhood Surprise is now available in the US!


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Posted in News & Reviews, Reviews