Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, otherwise known as No. 1, is not only the best car-spotter in his African village, his electric ideas improve village life.
Nigerian-born Atinuke (Anna Hibiscus, 2010, etc.) introduces an energetic new character and an unusual setting in her latest title. While Anna’s suburban life resembles that of American children in many ways, No. 1 lives in a tiny village with “few compounds and many goats and several cows.” The men, and even many of the women, have gone off to the city to make money, leaving single-parent families and elderly grandparents. No. 1 helps his family in the fields, runs errands and goes to market, but his favorite activity is car-spotting—identifying the cars that pass on the road by sound and sight, as his grandfather did before him. As in Anna and her sequels, these four interconnected short stories revel in the language and rhythms of oral storytelling. In one story, No. 1 convinces a cousin to chop up a dead Toyota, turning it into a Cow-rolla. In another, his father makes an unintended use of wheelbarrows given to the village by the NGO man. The gentle humor is reflected in Cadwell’s gray-scale cartoon drawings on every page.
First published in England in 2010, this promises another engaging chapter-book series, a treat for lively middle-grade boys. (Fiction. 7-11)