________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 24 . . . . February 24, 2012


The Matatu.

Eric Walters. Illustrated by Eva Campbell.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-301-6.

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Inderjit Deogun.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



For years, Kioko had watched the matatus dropping off and picking up passengers at the village market. When the matatus drove away, leaving Kioko in a cloud of dust, he always dreamed of one day climbing onboard too. Today, for the first time, to celebrate his fifth birthday, he would be.

“Can’t you move a bit faster?” he asked, taking his grandfather’s hand.

“This is fast enough. You run ahead and ask the conductor to wait.”

Kioko raced to the market. He passed huts, houses and stalls, not even glancing at the sweet mandazi for sale.

He ran past people, pushcarts and bicycles. Then he saw it—the matatu. A crowd of passengers waited to board. The roof was heavy with bags of maize, bundles of grass, a bed frame, a mattress and three chairs.

Kioko looked for his grandfather. He couldn’t see him anywhere. Another matatu would arrive in an hour. But Kioko had waited so long already, he didn’t want to wait any longer.

“Sir,” he called up to the conductor, “could you please wait for my grandfather?”

“You must think your grandfather is very important if you believe he can keep an entire matatu waiting for him.”

His grandfather was wise, an elder, a teller of stories, a father of eleven children and a grandfather to thirty-seven.

“He is important,” Kioko said. “And here he comes!”

Today is a big day for Kioko: It’s his fifth birthday. And to celebrate, he’s going to ride the matatu for the very first time. On the matatu, Kioko receives an answer to the question he’s been pondering: Why do dogs always chase matatus?

internal art      Eva Campbell’s illustrations effortlessly transport the reader to Kikima, Kenya. She evokes the richness of the Kenyan people and their culture by employing vivid colours and distinctive dress. Campbell’s artistic prowess is evident in the rendering of her characters: Kioko’s face epitomizes innocence while his grandfather’s exudes wisdom.

      Eric Walters’ The Matatu is both a beautiful and a light-hearted glimpse into the lives and stories of the Kenyan people. Walters expertly switches gears on the reader by turning a story of adventure into one of hilarity. However, The Matatu is not merely a folktale. Walters has also crafted a story that exemplifies the grandparent-grandchild relationship. Young readers will understand exactly why Kioko sees his grandfather as “very important.”


In Mississauga, ON, Inderjit Deogun is currently pursuing a career in publishing with a particular interest in children’s literature.

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