Monday, April 01, 2013

Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe

The late Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian author Chinua Achebe is most known for his novel Things Fall Apart, set in the 1890s when British colonization disturbed the balance of tribal societies across Africa. Not only did Achebe write several sequels to the story, he also wrote poetry, essays, and children's books. The first of the children's stories, Chike and the River, first published in 1966, has recently been reissued with bright new  illustrations by Edel Rodriguez.

Chike is a young Nigerian boy of eleven living in rural Umuofia with his widowed mother as the story begins, but he is soon sent to stay with his uncle in Onitsha, where he attends school and learns about city life. He is an innocent who sometimes falls prey to the deceptions of city boys.While he misses village life, he is ready for adventures that the city offers, particularly riding a ferry across the Niger River. His mother has warned him never to go close to the River, so you can easily imagine what he wants to do.

Written for children, Chike and the River is somewhat light and optimistic and has been criticized as not up to Achebe's standards for realistic fiction. Being just a big kid, I enjoyed it for the story and sense of place.

I read a digital library copy of Chike and the River (88 pages in print but unspecified as an ebook) using Overdrive Read, a new ebook reader that works on Internet browsers, saving the borrower from downloading any files. I started in Firefox on a PC running Window XP, switched to Safari on my iPhone, and finish in Chrome on an iMac. Overdrive claims that my place will be kept each time I switch devices, but that did not happen. Each time I logged in, I started at the beginning. Luckily, the table of contents made it easy to navigate, and it was helpful not having to download the files.

Achebe, Chinua. Chike and the River. Anchor Books, 1966. Illustrations, 2011. 88p. ISBN 9780307473868. eISBN 9780307742070.

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