cover image Bitter Bananas

Bitter Bananas

Isaac Olaleye. Boyds Mills Press, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-039-9

Deep in the African rain forest, Yusuf harvests sweet palm sap for himself and his family. What they don't drink, he takes to market. When he discovers a band of baboons pilfering his harvest, he plots--vainly at first--to rout them. Olaleye, a native of Nigeria, makes a notable storytelling debut; his work bears the stamp of orally transmitted folktales. But the real lure here is the art. The tale is not so much illustrated by Young ( Lon Po Po ) as it is electrically charged--lush, tropical colors glow against a largely black backdrop, transforming the straightforward events into the stuff of mystery. Young, working with cut paper, demonstrates a remarkably fluid technique; his exotic images suggestboth depth and motion. Jungle grasses appear to wave in the wind,crimson blossoms spill down a corner of a page. An inspired--and inspiring--collaboration. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)