Title: The No.1 Car Spotter and the Firebird
Illustrator: Warwick Johnson Cadwell
Publisher: Walker Publishing 2011
Themes: Family, Village Life, Understanding the world around
This is the second book in a planned series. In the previous book, we were introduced to village life in Africa through the eyes of a youthful, inventive, courageous boy, called No. 1. This book has a similar format of four stories with one leading into the next.
In the first story, No. 1 and the Catapult, we learn about village dangers when a leopard enters the village at night to steal goats. No. 1, who is ridiculed by friends and even family for not being able to use a catapult to help defend the family’s property, uses his noggin once again to come up with a clever, spicy idea which rids the village of the predator.
In the second story, No 1 and the Flood, a small flood in the region halts traffic that runs past the village. Once again, No 1 comes to save the day when he brings the Cow-rolla (from Book 1) to help transport people from one side of the road to the other. This story lightly touches upon class tensions. I did enjoy when Grandfather responded to the rich people “we only have public transport solutions here. People with private cars and aeroplanes have to find their own way. Unless you want to take the bus?“
The third and fourth stories seemed like one larger story. Mama Coca-Cola’s traditional mud hut has a leaky roof and is in need of a new house. She jumps at No 1’s suggestion of building a modern concrete house. It seems that neither Mama Coca-Cola nor No 1 really understand everything about modern houses and concrete. No 1 almost gets stuck in the concrete when he tries to help out. Mama Coca-Cola realizes there are some unexpected downsides to having an iron roof and a four-cornered house, maybe Grandmother was right about traditional huts. Not to worry as No 1 figures out how to help Mama Coca-Cola and help her become the No 1 Chop House (restaurant).
In the end No 1 does get his dream come true when the university professor stops at the Chop House and wants to hear all about No 1’s ideas and gives him a ride in the famous red Firebird. What child doesn’t want to be discovered.
Overall the stories were entertaining, but I had a harder time relating to some of the situations. For instance the first story with the leopard, I felt that the villagers should have been more scared. Also, in the last story Mama Coca-Cola complains about flies liking the concrete house which is why her babies keep getting bitten at night. Why are the flies not an issue later when the house is used as a chop house (restaurant) instead of living quarters. In this book, I had a lot more questions like this and found it harder to just go with the flow of the story. Still a good book, and a series I would recommend.
This book was not available in the US libraries at the time of the interview. You can check WorldCat. I was able to get this book through the Interlibrary Loan system at my local library. Here is the most awesome thing, I think my copy of the book came from Great Britain!!! I love the public library system.