What a delightful read. Achebe waved his magic wand and made me feel 8 years old again while reading this charming children’s story.
Chike leaves his mother and his village of Umuofia to settle with his uncle in Onitsha where he would school. He settles into this new life and quickly makes friends at the school. The notorious S.M.O.G. becomes a particularly good friend and a constant bad influence. Chike’s desire is to cross the River Niger to Asaba, a big city unlike anything he has seen before. The ferry ride is six-pence one way and this is beyond his means. The adventure begins as he figures a way to make the money, he then crosses the river only to miss the last ferry back home, and then he ends up in the back of a lorry for the night, which turns out to be a loading vehicle for robbers. The ending I shall leave for you to discover (Avoiding spoilers here).
Of course, as all children’s adventures go, there is nothing special here. In fact, one could go as far as to say that the story is a cliché, although the book was first published in 1966, so it could also be seen as a standard story format of the time. What stands out is Achebe’s simple prose and the continuous references to Chike’s tribal sayings, all of which are shown for young readers to understand. Likewise the occasional usage of pidgin English or references in local dialect. Another great factor is the actions taken by the different characters which are all accurate and vivid, representative of life in Nigeria. There is much to learn culturally for modern day young readers as well as adult readers who are interested to know about tribal African cultures. A highly recommended book.