cover image BIKES FOR RENT!


Isaac Olaleye, Isaac Olayleye, , illus. by Chris Demarest. . Scholastic/Orchard, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-531-30290-3

Lateef, "a determined and hardworking lad" who lives in western Nigeria, gathers firewood and mushrooms to sell at the village market so he can afford to rent a bike from Babatunde. Despite his friends' taunts, Lateef finally learns to ride sufficiently well that Babatunde agrees to rent him a big, new bike rather than the usual small, older model. After the boy succumbs to his peers' dare to ride downhill without holding onto the handlebars, he—predictably—crashes. Lateef asks Babatunde for a job to work off his debt and, after having done so, stays on the job to earn his own bicycle. Though the author offers some insight into Nigerian culture, his writing is often mannered (e.g., "His friends teased him. 'You will never be a good rider. Yea!' they crowed. His friends laughed, 'Ha-ha, ho-ho, ha-ho!' "). Demarest (If Dogs Had Wings) turns in less than his best work with these watercolor illustrations: figures are oddly foreshortened and their features sketchy. The setting, which is the strength of the story, seems generic in the art. Ages 5-9. (May)