All Aboard for the Bobo Road by Stephen Davies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s been too long since I reviewed a picture book, and so I am indebted to Andersen Press for this review copy of ‘All aboard for the Bobo Road’. Written from the author’s own experience of life in Burkina Faso, this is a vibrant and rather appealing picture book that tells the story of the bus journey along the road to Bobo. Driven by Big Ali, with his children Fatima and Galo on the roof, the bus picks up a host of passengers on its way and passes through real places in Burkina Faso: Lake Tengrela, the ‘hippo lake’; Karfiguela Falls, the Domes of Fabedougou and several other sites, illustrated in lovingly rich and warm detail by Christopher Corr. This is a book of colour; of thickly saturated yellows and golds and oranges; searing greens and vibrant blues. I particularly loved Corr’s horizons; great double page spreads of rich blue-green; shadowy palm outlines; tumultous green-edged rainforests with the ever present sun beaming out behind the trees. Pages need ending and finishing and Corr does this so well.
There’s something rather deliciously welcome about All Aboard For The Bobo Road. I intensely welcome and actively embrace books that detail the lives of other cultures; far too often, picture books tread a similar path and whilst many of them deliver brilliant and nuanced things in that treading, it is a path that should never be treated as the sole and definitive route. A particular joy about All Aboard For The Bobo Road is its linkage to real world sites, turning this book into something that straddles the borders of fiction and non-fiction. There’s a wide world here in this book and it’s something that could inspire a lot of craft and activity around it; bus journeys of your own, counting games on the train with people and luggage, making a map of your local area, and so on.
Hidden away in Davies’ exuberant and rythmically pleasing narrative of the journey is a counting tale; we are asked to count the different items placed on the bus ranging from watermelons to mopeds (and yes, the amount of the items specified in the illustrations do tally with the text; some slightly picky reviewers, naming no names, do check this sort of thing), and I do love a book with a healthy aural refrain. A picture book lives in two spaces; the visual and the aural, and this has a lovely repeating motif of “Beep, Beep! They’re off again!” All Aboard The Bobo Road is such a bright, delicious thing. I rather like it.