cover image Off to the Sweet Shores of Africa: And Other Talking Drum Rhymes

Off to the Sweet Shores of Africa: And Other Talking Drum Rhymes

Chronicle Books, Uzo Unobagha, Uzoamaka Chinyelu Unobagha. Chronicle Books, $16.95 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2378-4

In the introduction to this collection, inspired by traditional Mother Goose rhymes, Nigerian-born Unobagha says that she hopes these verses about Africa will deliver ""important cultural messages to readers"" about her homeland. Unobagha is at her best with onomatopoetic sounds that conjure the rhythms of village life, as in a spread of music rhymes (""Ifidom the village drum/ Rolled around on his tummy-tum"") or nature sounds (""`Rush!' says the tradewind,/ `Rush! Rush! Rush!'/ As it races through the leaves""). Less successful verses rely heavily on devices and forms used in the original Mother Goose rhymes (""Here we go round the mulberry bush"" becomes ""Here we go dancing the rumba dance"") or awkwardly strain for effect: ""Round and round/ My wrapper wraps,/ Round and round/ My tiny waist,/ Round and round/ She flaps and laps,/ When I'm in a mighty haste."" The playful, joyful rhymes brim with African words and shed light on culture and customs, and a helpful glossary at the end of the book explains unfamiliar terms. Cairns's watercolors burst with energy as silhouetted characters walk the shores of the Limpopo River and dance to the market. Varied, artful designs feature not only full-color paintings of animals, plants, baskets and village scenes, but plenty of spot art and bright borders that resemble African fabrics. All ages. (Sept.)