CATCH THAT GOAT!
A busy Nigerian street market is the setting for this sunny debut. While her mother is out, Ayoka is supposed to "look after the goat." Immediately, her charge escapes to the market, where a panicked Ayoka asks a vendor, "Mama Kudi, have you seen my goat?" "No, Ayoka," she replies. "But one of my boli [bananas] is missing. I can only see ten." At the page's edge, only the hind legs of the goat are visible as they kick over a basket of spoons. In the next spread, a loaf of bread goes missing: "I can see only nine!" says the vendor (the goat's hind hooves upset a plate of tomatoes). This pattern continues in each spread in a countdown to zero. Finally, her mother returns and points out the goat—wearing all of the missing items. Young children should relish the predictable text, the utterly silly climax and the fun of spotting clues left by the mischievous pet. Alakija's energetic illustrations, in grayed-down jewel tones, ripple with the texture of the paper underneath. In one scene, three women grind food at the "Mama Put Cool Spot," where they serve such exotic dishes as cow-leg pepper soup, egusi and dodo. That exoticism, coupled with the cheery color, pattern and vitality of the bustling market, offers children an enlightening excursion far removed from their everyday trips to the supermarket. Ages 4-7. (July)