Friday, May 17, 2013

The No 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird by Atinuke (book 2)

Atinuke stitches sentences together and word plays that make reading this story aloud irresistible. Goofy, but endearing characters give a taste of African village life in this funny early chapter book. When a leopard attacks the family goats, Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, nickenamed No 1,  is called upon to shoot it. "I fire a stone from my slingshot. It hits the wall. It does not even exit the window." His mama screams as the leopard attacks the goat and he fires another round. "A stone shoots from my slingshot  and exits the window. Hooray! Then a goat squeals in answer, and Mama snatches the slingshot from me. 'Do you want to join the leopard in killing our goats!' Mama shouts." Seeing the futility of hitting the leopard with a stone, No. 1 comes up with a unique plan to chase it away.

When others tease him about his slingshot skills and the weird way he got rid of the leopard, Grandfather responds, "There is no need to be good with slingshot... when you have a No. 1 brain!" He's proud of him using his noggin. The praise causes No. 1 to smile "my No. 1 smile. I am No. 0 at slingshot, but I am the No. 1 car spotter. I am No. 1 at chasing away leopards too!" Unlike the other supporting characters that complain and put down each other, Grandpa always supports his grandson pointing out what he is good at and challenging him to come up with different solutions to problems when the need arises. Ah... that every child could have a champion that builds confidence and encourages problem-solving!

Atinuke is "cleva-cleva" with language creating a rhythm through unusual wordplays capturing African culture. One example of the author mixing up conventions is taking a phrase such as, "He has his eyes shut tight" and reversing some words to "He has his eyes tight shut." She also adds "-o" to the end of words that were funny and create interesting alliterations and colloquialisms: "My goats will die-o", "The water will quench my engine-o", "There is something wrong-o with you". Just when I thought she might be going overboard she restrains herself and uses a different writing technique. She also shows a village of people who are poor economically but rich in relationships. When Mama Coca-Cola needs a new house, the entire village pitches in to build her one. When the roof originally leaks, the whole village offers buckets to help her, even though they need the buckets for cooking. While they complain when she wants to keep them, their actions are generous and collective at solving her leaky-roof problem.

Nicknames in No 1's village remind me of the Nigerians at a church we went to in Europe who had some nontraditional names such as Baptism and Baby. No. 1 lives with Nike, Coca-Cola, Emergency, Tuesday, to name a few. Auntie Fine-Fine and Uncle Go-Easy made me do a double-take, but that's okay. I need to slow down my reading speed. It might bother some readers, but I think it adds the right flavor in reflecting a different culture. It reinforces the message of tolerance in cultures and that each person is unique and different.

No. 1 loves cars so much he can yell out what the car it is by the sound of the engine. His favorite is the Pontiac Firebird that passes through his village but never stops. He knows a professor drives it and he is eager to impress him. When the river floods and No. 1 comes up with a solution to cross the road, he's more interested in the professor than praise from others. The professor and his car represent a different economic status. While the villagers are poor the tone is not depressing as so often found in books with poor characters and this is one thing I truly enjoyed in this story.  No. 1 doesn't feel sorry for himself and he is joyful with the life he leads. He might say, "O-ya! That's life in the "hot-hot bush."

I accidentally bought book 2. I didn't feel that I had to read book 1 to figure out the characters or plot in this one. After finishing it, I went ordered book 1 & 3. I wish I could find a book like this set in Asia. One that captures the culture and day-to-day living but is an early chapter book. That level book is just hard to "find-find."

Level 3.5
4 Smileys 

No comments:

Post a Comment