Best known as one of the major voices of contemporary African literature ever since the publication of his first novel, Things Fall Apart, Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has made it one of his goals to be a spokesman for his native culture and its values. In a world still in many cases dominated by colonialist ideas about the dark continent, his work clearly demonstrated the falsity of those ideas. It emphasizes both European ignorance and African social norms. There is a clash of cultures played out in Things Fall Apart, and although the Europeans with their religion and their armies win out, an impressive traditional culture has been lost. The advocacy for this tradition has been the work of Achebe's life.
Chike and the River a novelette written for children back in 1966 is now being published in the United States for the first time. It is the story of the 11-year old Chike who is taken from his village to live with his uncle and go to school in Onitsha on the banks of the Niger. When he hears exciting tales about the town on the other side of the river from his school friends, the dream of crossing to the other side and seeing this fabulous place consumes the boy. The problem is he has no money for the ferry fare. The story goes on to describe his various attempts to get the money, and his eventual discovery when he does that things don't always live up to their hype.
Chike is an endearing character in his naiveté and wonder who learns valuable lessons about life as his story progresses. He is set in contrast to his friend S.M.O.G. who is seemingly more worldly wise and Ezekiel, a trouble maker, nicknamed "Tough Boy." Even here though, the boys are more mischievous than they are evil.