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Monday, September 17, 2012

The No 1 Car Spotter, written by Atinuke and illustrated by Warwick Johnson Cadwell. Walker Books, 2010. ages 6 and up

"Let me introduce myself. My name is Oluwalase Babatunde Benson. But everybody calls me No. 1. The No. 1. I am the No. 1 car spotter n my village. Car spotting is the only hobby in this village. Grandmother, Mama and all the aunties think that no such hobby should be allowed."

Another great character and set of short stories from Atinuke! The No. 1 Car Spotter's African village is nowhere special, he says. His country has much more than his small home village does. In towns and cities nearby there is much action; but where he lives there is only talk of 'such things'. What's a boy to do where there is nothing else to do but work?

Whenever they have spare time, Oluwalase and his grandfather partake of their favorite spotting. His grandfather has taught him well; they both know cars by the sounds of their engines and by the way they look from far-off. They are brilliant at what they do!

"What grandfather does not know about car spotting is not to know."

There are four stories included in this collection, and each is as entertaining as the one before and the one following it. It would be a great readaloud for a classroom, or for a pair of students to share with each other. There is humor here, but it does not negate the seriousness of some of the issues being presented.

Oluwalase must help in a village where many of the older men, including his father, have moved to the city to make enough money to support their families back home. While he seems to be involved in one adventure after another, they mean helping with the work of the village while also giving aid to those in need. It takes much thought to find a solution to his grandmother's need for a doctor's care. The same when the cart that transports market goods breaks down, and the villagers are left with no way to take their goods to sell.

The artwork brings readers into the village to meet the narrator and his family, friends and neighbors. The perspectives change to offer a variety of views as the action moves from story to story. Here is a boy who lives in Africa, faces difficulties that help him realize the part he plays in the lives of his family and within his village, and entertains early readers with a story that they will truly enjoy and long to share with others. He is bright, articulate, keen on life and can be depended on when help is needed or ideas sought.

I have great admiration for Atinuke's gift for storytelling and look forward to every new book she writes.

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