Oversized, uncommonly dynamic illustrations spark an otherwise slight and disjointed story about a selfish young man named Ojo, who refuses anyone who asks for help. When bid to become king of another (magical) country, Ojo finally says ``yes''--one too many times, in fact, and so he is returned to his village, a changed man. The straightforward, active text (``Ojo chose a wife. She was as beautiful as the dawn'') enhances the book's storytelling quality, but misses out on dramatic opportunities. For example, the use of a familiar fairytale device proves disappointing--when Ojo's wife opens a disallowed door, the consequences are singularly unexciting. French's elaborate art has the stylized, dancing energy of Gerald McDermott's work; the pictures' rich patterns suggest African fabric designs, sometimes utilizing several contrasting motifs and ornate borders. Each successive spread seems increasingly imposing, and even the brilliant endpapers sing with rhythm and color. Characters in statuesque poses and theatrical attitudes glide across these pages with the sureness and grace of a finely rehearsed pageant. Ages 4-8. (Apr. )
Gr 1-4-- Ojo, who lives in an African village, always says, ``No'' when his neighbors ask for his help. When a spirit who is King of the Forest offers to make the selfish young man a king if he can learn to say, ``Yes,'' he becomes the ruler of a blessed magical kingdom. His positive approach is all that is required for the realm's prosperity and happiness. He is warned by the village elders that he must never look behind the carved door, but when his beautiful wife suggests they open the door, Ojo agrees. The face of the King of the Forest is revealed and the couple is banished back into the real world. By now, however, Ojo has learned that there are times to say yes and times to say no. He is a more considerate and helpful neighbor and he and his wife live happily. This original moral tale has a short, simple text. French's brilliantly colored and patterned double-page illustrations are enjoyable. Because of its size, the accessibility of the story, and the vivid paintings, the book will be useful for story hour programs. --Marilyn Iarusso, New York Public Library
Contrary Ojo always says "no," no matter what anyone asks him. The fierce King of the Forest tells Ojo he could be a great king if he would only learn to say "yes," too. Ojo promises to try and eventually becomes a wise king who rules well. He marries, and his new wife loves him because he is generous and always says "yes." But with his wife's encouragement, Ojo says "yes" one time too many. The couple find themselves back in Ojo's old village, where, it turns out, they live happily, with Ojo sometimes saying "yes," and sometimes saying "no." Though cataloged as fiction, this work follows the traditional folktale pattern very closely and has the feel of an orally transmitted story. French's illustrations, which create a fantastic environment for the story, intrigue the eye with hot colors and ornate, textilelike graphics. The story will be especially useful for reading aloud to older picture-book audiences and for readers looking for a visual and verbal stretch.