cover image The Distant Talking Drum: Poems from Nigeria

The Distant Talking Drum: Poems from Nigeria

Isaac Olaleye. Boyds Mills Press, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-095-5

Olaleye's (Bitter Bananas) nostalgic poems commemorate a peaceful Nigerian farming village. ``Like a stream,/ The love/ For my village/ Flows,'' he says. Various poems describe Uncle Fao Bio the ``village tales-teller,'' the look of a tropical rainstorm, weavers, and children playing hide-and-seek.'' Lessac's (Not a Copper Penny in Me House) vivid, primitive watercolors are bordered with simple designs and filled with stylized motifs: rain spills from the sky in dotted lines; as children listen to a tale about a tortoise, it is pictured above their heads in a cartoon cloud. Olaleye is at his best when describing the ``palace of fragrance and tastes/ That delight the senses'' (for example, the ``blizzard of butterflies,'' the ``clattering of dried gourds''), but less successful in explanatory passages (``Once a year all the villagers dance./ Excitement is in the air./ Music is in the air./ Food aromas fill the air''). Such moments aside, these rhythmic, detailed, musical poems provide a welcome and informed look at the customs and people of the ``wide, wild, and wonderful rain forest.'' Ages 6-9. (Jan.)