cover image Big Boy

Big Boy

Tololwa M. Mollel. Clarion Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-67403-1

Buoyed by exceptional illustrations, Mollel (The Flying Tortoise) spins a tale of universal appeal from a scrap of Tanzanian folklore. Oli longs to be a big boy, like his brother Mbachu. One day Oli sneaks out to the woods, where a magical bird grants his wish to be big. Oli grows to Bunyanesque stature, but his enormity causes a series of nightmarish misadventures. Indeed, his growth spurt has been just a dream, and he awakens happily in his mother's arms. Oli rides home on her back, noting that Mbachu is too big to do so. ``He snuggled tighter to his mama. It was good to be little, thought Oli. Sometimes.'' Mollel's story is an engaging fantasy for little ones with big aspirations, but it is Lewis's (Fire on the Mountain) crisp, understated watercolors that steal the show. His pleasing compositions, with their surprising perspectives, incorporate details particular to the Tanzanian setting even as they evoke a sense of boundless space. Ages 4-7. (Feb.)