cover image In the Rainfield

In the Rainfield

Isaac Olaleye. Scholastic, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-590-48363-6

Grifalconi's (The Village of Round and Square Houses) surreal collages explode across the pages of this eye-popping book, layering photographs and cut-paper images against a whirling, swirling backdrop worthy of the credit sequence to a James Bond film. The result is highly kinetic, a mesmerizing foil to a Nigerian folktale about an argument between Wind, Fire and Rain. The three elements--characterized as two men and a woman--squabble over who is greatest and finally hold a contest to determine the mightiest of all. Wind howls, Fire rages, but Rain wins, vanquishing her rivals with a downpour that demonstrates her credo, ""The greatest must be the gentlest."" Olaleye's (Bitter Bananas) prose is sleek and limber, and peppered with African words and phrases (""Village children huffed and puffed, kia kia, kata-kiti, running from the wind""). The language gains extra texture from judicious use of alliteration (""Fire fumed with great fury""). The energy of the folktale is whipped up in Grifalconi's collages, where marbled-paper backdrops (enlarged to set off their exotically curving patterns) provide a '60s-ish psychedelic effect. Between the tempestuous story line and the electrifying art, this is one wild ride from beginning to end. Ages 4-9. (Feb.)