Books by Isaac Olaleye

BIKES FOR RENT! by Isaac Olaleye
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2001

Realistically conveying the close affinity of boys for bikes anywhere in the world, Olaleye (In the Rainfield, 2000) also introduces the young reader to a small slice of village life in contemporary western Nigeria. Lateef, a spunky young boy, wants to rent a bike, but doesn't have the wherewithal to do so, until he starts earning his own money by selling mushrooms and firewood. He starts off on a small bike, but won't rest until he is allowed to rent the big, shiny, red one, the pride of the fleet. As usual, a boy's derring-do leads to a fall and Lateef has a doozy. In order to repay the bike-owner, Lateef offers to work for him. He pays his debt honorably and builds a bike of his own from spare parts. Demarest's (Someday We'll Have Very Good Manners, 2000, etc.) energetic watercolors, warm in tone with yellow skies and brown skins, roads and clothing, impart a modest sense of life in an African country, but there are not enough specific details here in either text or pictures to satisfy a child's curiosity. Although the illustrator paints women in traditional clothing, his generalized depictions do not reflect the fabrics used or the head coverings worn. The text uses a few onomatopoetic words to quicken the tempo: "Bump! Thump! Whomp!"—but this device is not enough to give the story a true voice. Ifeoma Onyefulu's photo essays, such as Ogbo: Sharing Life in an African Village (1996) give a stronger picture of life in Nigeria, while Tollolwa M. Mollel's My Rows and Piles of Coins (1999), set in Tanzania, is a more effective story about a boy who must earn money to buy a bicycle. Pleasant, but pedestrian. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

Using a grammatical structure that often puts the subject of the sentence after the object, Olaleye gives his prose an unusual flair: "In an African rain forest village called Inisa, lived two boys, Ade and Tayo. Best friends they were." When the two are instructed by their mothers to do chores and not leave the village, readers sense that these boys will do exactly the opposite. Ade tempts Tayo to venture into the jungle, where they play, and also tempts him to cross the lake where a snake lives, in pursuit of delicious berries. When the water snake appears, trapping them, the boys use their wits to trick the snake and escape, with the only slightly less formidable consequence of facing their mothers. The text is lengthy and the process of Ade and Tayo's attempts to escape is unnecessarily drawn out. The strong point is the boys' friendship, which has room for bickering as well as for displays of loyalty. The setting is a delight, richly represented in a wide palette of greens and browns, revealing in many details how a world so different from our own can be home to a child. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >