The No.1 Car Spotter and the Firebird
written by Atinuke; illustrated by Warwick Johnson Cadwell
2012 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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Grandfather sighs. "Nobody is good at everything, No. 1," he says. "You are the No. 1 car spotter. That is enough." But it is not enough to stop the others laughing at me.
I am so happy that Oluwalase Babatunde Benson, also known as the No. 1 Car Spotter, is back in his second book. No. 1 lives in an African village that lacks electricity and everything that comes with it. What it does have is plenty of heart and humor. Four new stories feature the clever car spotter and his fellow villagers. The first story, No. 1 and the Slingshot, has a leopard stealing goats from the village. No. 1's ineptitude with a slingshot is costing his family valuable goats and severely wounding No. 1's pride. One of the charming aspects of these stories is how No. 1 doesn't give up and usually devises a unique solution to his problems. His idea to bypass the need for a slingshot leaves the leopard hightailing it out of the village without his appetite for goat. Three other stories showcase the troubles and triumphs of this winning family. No. 1's greatest pursuit, to meet the professor who drives the elusive Firebird that speeds by the village each day, comes to fruition in an unusual way. It is No. 1's problem solving and Mama Coca-Cola's akara that finally brings the dream car to his village.
Atinuke has created an extended family that is both funny and inspiring. The villagers can be cranky, which makes for great humor, but they never fail to help each other out in times of great need. These characters have flaws which makes them even more appealing as we see some of ourselves in them. I love the setting for these books as we get so few books featuring characters from Africa. As satisfying as the first book, No. 1 Car Spotter and his friends are characters that you will want to introduce to your upper elementary readers.