Writing relevant and interesting books for children is an art mastered only by few wordsmiths. Imaginative works of this ilk should grip the attention and imagination of proliferating youngsters in general.
As literary critic, Pule Lechesa has pointed out: "We must be honest about it, many - if not most - of celebrated children's literature in the western world leave our African children cold and disinterested. Whilst writers like Enid Blyton or J. K Rowling might have something of a mainstream interest to most children globally, it is usually not the norm. But the great thing is that some African writers have managed to produce very fine work for African kids,"
A few world class African writers have written books specifically targeted at African children - like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Cyprian Ekwensi. But African writers who specialise in producing children's literature include Gcina Mhlophe, Barbara Kimenye, and Efua Sutherland. (Onuora Nzekwu, an accomplished novelist, also wrote the wonderful Eze goes to school beloved by countless kids).
But few, if any African writers can match the dazzling and prolific ouvre of children's literature produced by KOLA ONADIPE - in his lifetime he published well over 20 excellent books that hundreds of thousands of youngsters excitingly read, and still remember with relish.
At first brush one might not have expected such strokes of literary genius enthralling youngsters coming from a personage like the late Mr Onadipe. He was a renowned, strict educationist and disciplinarian; a School Principal for many years. And a qualified lawyer too. Yet he was somehow able to enter the minds of the young ones and create many enduring stories and escapades involving kids.
The range and depth of Onadipe's published works was truly remarkable - his imagination apparently knew no bounds; and African children over the generations continue to attest to the sterling worth of this great man's literary creativity.
Life in the village...life in the forests...life in the city...the horror of abduction, or hopelessness, mishaps, or pure terror - for children. Onadipe knew it all. It is no surprise that an astonishing number of people regard him as the greatest-ever African writer of books for children.
Kola Onadipe died in 1988.
- O Bolaji
Kola Onadipe's Works
The adventures of Souza. Ibadan: African Universities Press, 1963.
The boy slave. Lagos: African Universities Press, 1966.
Koku Baboni. Ibadan: African Universities Press, 1965.
Sugar girl. Nairobi: East African Pub, 1964.
The magic land of the shadows. Lagos: African University Press, 1970.
The forest is our playground. Lagos, Nigeria: Africa Universities Press, 1972.
The return of Shettima. Lagos: University Press, 1972.
Builders of Africa. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press, 1980. ISBN 978-178-004-5
Footprints on the Niger. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press, 1980. ISBN 978-178-006-1
Sunny boy. Ijebu-Ode: Natona Press, 1980.
Sweet mother. Ijebu-Ode [Nigeria]: Natona Press, 1980. ISBN 978-178-001-0
Around Nigeria in thirty days. Nigeria: Natona, 1981. ISBN 978-178-027-4
Call me Michael. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press, 1981. ISBN 978-178-017-7
Halima must not die : and other plays for schools. Ijebu-Ode: Natona Press, 1981. ISBN 978-178-026-6
Happy birthday : queen for a day. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press, 1982. ISBN 978-178-005-3
The Other Woman. 1982
A pot of gold. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press Publishers, 1984. ISBN 978-178-008-8
Beloved daughters. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press, 1985. ISBN 978-178-022-3
The king is naked : and other stories. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press, 1985. ISBN 978-178-025-8
The mysterious twins. Ijebu-Ode: Natona, 1986.
Binta : beautiful bride. Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria: Natona Press, 1988.