The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird is the most recently published book by Atinuke, who we’ve been celebrating this week with an interview and a look at the books which influenced her on her journey to becoming an author.
It’s the second book (in a planned series of six) following the life and times of No. 1, an optimistic and creative boy in a modern African village, who has a knack for leftfield solutions to problems and major expertise when it comes to identifying cars approaching his village from a distance (a practise an African blog reader of mine has told me is indeed a favourite past-time of young boys she knows and sees).
In the first book about No. 1 (which I reviewed here) we met his best friend, Coca-Cola and the extended family which surrounds him, and witnessed the crucial, beautiful, good-humoured way his community worked together to get through good times and bad times for the benefit of everyone. This theme is continued in The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird, where each chapter explores a different event in the life and times of Oluwalase Babatunde Benson (as No. 1 is officially named, though you’ll never hear him actually called that).
You’ll read about how the village unites against the threat of leopards who have been stealing goats, how the day is saved when a flood in rainy season threatens to stop all traffic passing the village (traffic is vital for those in the village who sell goods and food at the roadside), and what happens when one of the village’s traditional mud homes is replaced by a modern concrete building.
You’ll see contemporary rural and urban African side by side, with some interesting commentary on the wisdom of traditional ways as opposed to the supposed benefits of modernity. You’ll see how, even if it takes the spark of a boy with “electricity” in his head to come up with a way round an obstacle, we actually need a community around us to lead a rich life full of warmth and meaning.
The book is a fast, funny and exciting read and with a story per chapter it makes a great book for a newly independent reader to enjoy and use to gain confidence in their abilities. Nearly every other page features an illustration (by Warwick Johnson Cadwell), and these further transport the reader to a place they may not be familiar with, but will very soon feel at home with.
Throughout this book there are repeated sightings of a Pontiac Firebird on the road which runs alongside No. 1’s village. It is the only such car in the country and it belongs to a professor from the city. It’s not surprising that No.1 is fascinated by this special car, and so when, as the book draws to a close, he is rewarded for his ingenuity with a ride in the car of his dreams we turn the last page with a smile on our faces as big as the smile on his.
We made our own Pontiac Firebird to read this lovely book in. Using large bits of cardboard taped to bamboo canes we created our doors. A broomhandle with a circular piece of cardboard sufficed as our steering wheel.
There is a track called Pontiac Firebird 82 if you really want to listen to it – I didn’t download it as didn’t suit us, but it might just suit one of you!
Other activities you could be inspired to get up to having read The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird include:
Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, reflect my own and honest opinion.