Reviews

Obara the Gatekeeper

Listed in Yellow Brick Road volume 22 number 8 - May/June 2007

Finalist, Indie Book Awards 2007

We utilize both books as a genre study, read alouds, and more.
   — Kim Hill, Assistant Principal PS 195 Queens
The book's artistic value speaks eloquently for itself. Its lessons are timeless and universal. The language is pure, natural, and powerful in its simplicity. It doesn't preach, but it guides to an embrace.
   — Ronald Isaac, writer
Parents, you will like it. This is a real story about everyday life long ago in Nigeria
   — New York Amsterdam News January 18, 2007
It is great for parents to teach with. The book teaches children character building skills like honesty and hard work while still entertaining them
   — Howard Beach Times, January 25, 2007
Obara the Gatekeeper is a wonderfully told story of how pride can blind one from being aware of what is going on around them...and how that can deeply effect their life. The illustrations in the book were excellent. I loved the vibrant colors and facial expressions...loved the little dog, too!
   —K. Bruins, Amazon Reviewer, Wonderful Learning Tool for Young Hearts..., August 6, 2007
Author Michelle Bodden adapted this apataka (sacred story) from traditional Yoruba religion handed down orally for generations. As with any oral story, there are many versions of the same story, but the message is always the same as are the essential elements. Obara is rather an "everyman" in traditional Yoruba culture, and he has many different jobs and adventures. This book is about his adventure as a Gatekeeper.

Obara is the keeper of the gate for his village in Nigeria. A long time ago, the towns and villages were enclosed and had one gate into the village, and the same gate was used to exit the village. Obara lived in a tiny house next to the gate. He didn't have much, and every night he'd dream he had a big home high on a hill and was rich. But every morning, he'd wake up and know it was only a dream. He just went back to work the next morning like always.

Watching people come and go through the gate was a very boring job. He'd watch the busy villagers with envy since his eyes were clouded with always wanting more than what he had.

Merchants would also come through the gate, and they felt sorry for Obara. One merchant gave him a small gold ring; another, some silver coins. Another merchant gave him fine pieces of fabric. It took a long time, but soon Obara became rich. He built the house on the high hill, the one he always saw in his dreams.

Bamise (this word means: Help me accomplish my wish) came to visit. He told Obara that his daughter's birthday was coming, and she wanted a gold ring. Could he spare one for her? Obara was proud, so he gave Bamise the ring for his daughter. Next came Kemi (this word means: Take care of me) and then came Owoiya (this word means: Mother's Pride). Did they ask Obara for something, too? You'll just have to read this story to see what happens to Obara in this surprise ending!

Michelle Bodden did an excellent job with the adaptation of this sacred story, and I love the lessons it teaches. The realistic illustrations by Kwenci Jones with accurate details makes this book a keeper. This fine book was a Best Book Award Finalist from USA Book News.

   — Gayle Jacobsen-Huset, Assistant Editor, Stories for Children Magazine

Obara and the Merchants

It radiates that highest form of simplicity that must be carefully thought and worked out. The sentences are symmetrical and flow melodically with a pleasing balance of hard and soft sounds. The pace of the tale is gracious and the harmony of idea and spirit is not lost on your readers. Your prose is poetic and your poetry is music.
   — Ronald Isaac, writer
Like most children's writing, the story of Obara and his neighbors is simple and brief, but it's also surprising, charming and heartwarming.
   — The Wave, October 1, 2004
One would hardly call a children's book, 'essential', but for those who truly wish to express to their children a love and understanding of certain aspects of African culture, that is exactly what this book is.
   —A. Paez "Caracolero" (New York), Amazon Reviewer, An essential work, January 20, 2006

Obara and the Merchants DVD

I wanted to tell you that my kids, ages, one, two, three and four watched your video, Obara & The Merchants. For the duration of the DVD the kids were like spellbound. It was the soothing voice of the narrator - even at this young age when you have a story they listen.
   — Gladys Jones, Family Child Care Provider
This short is illustrated with great drawings and paintings and appropriate music is added. The story is about Obara, a hunter who lives in Africa during a lean time and he is hoping to catch some food. When he finally does, and makes a stew, some merchants follow the scent of the stew to his home and ask if they can dine with him. He allows them to and they enjoy each other's company. When they offer him pumpkins for his kindness, he finds that there is more to the pumpkins than meets the eyes, and that kindness is always rewarded in one way or another. We happily award our Dove Seal to this short video and do so for all ages.
   — Dove Foundation
Author Michelle Bodden adapted this apataki (sacred story) from traditional Yoruba religion handed down orally for generations. As with any oral story, there are many versions of the same story, but the message is always the same as are the essential elements. Obara is rather an "everyman" in traditional Yoruba culture, and he has many different jobs and adventures. This book is about his adventure with some merchants.

In the Nigerian village long ago where Obara lived, there was famine. The crops wouldn't grow, and hunters weren't finding any game to kill. Everybody was hungry and had no energy to do anything. Except Obara the hunter. He was hungry, too, but decided he couldn't give up. He would keep hunting until he could find something to eat. Deep in the forest, Obara saw an animal. He was able to kill it with an arrow. He rushed home so that he could cook a good meal that night.

Soon, the delicious aroma of Obara's cooking traveled far on the wind. A merchant named Adebayo caught the scent of food cooking and decided to follow the smell in the hopes that the person cooking would share his meal with him. Other friends smelled the food, and joined Adebayo in finding the source of the food. They approached Obara's compound and told him they'd followed the delicious smell of his cooking food and were hungry. Obara was proud of his hunting skills and his supper, so he offered to share it with the merchants or they would go hungry since they didn't know how to hunt. They had a wonderful meal full of good conversation, which made the food taste even better. Soon, the merchants needed to leave, so they gave Obara some pumpkins as a gift for his hospitality. The surprise ending of this story teaches a valuable lesson to children everywhere.

Michelle Bodden did an excellent job with the adaptation of this sacred story. Coupled with the realistic and accurately detailed illustrations of Kwenci Jones, this book gets a high five for being a great book to read with your child.

   — Gayle Jacobsen-Huset, Assistant Editor, Stories for Children Magazine