Peanut and the Burning Tank is a true and interesting story about growing up in the rural Kenya. This story has it all. Peanut is a wonderfully mischievous character who seems to be a magnet for trouble .The book keeps you glued to the pages as Peanut reminds us of the many risks we took as children and how much we owe to luck for keeping us safe.
The mischief in the book is seen at the beginning of the book:
“Boys who are born and bred of mischief will always look for mischief. It starts early. Right in their mamas’ tummies, the baby brat kicks and jump up and down as if playing a wild game of kickboxing. They bite their mamas’ breast instead of sucking. They repeatedly pee on their mamas back, burp straight on their mamas’ face and soil their diapers as soon as they are changed.”
The description within the story are vivid and compelling: making the reader feel as though they are actually living the story.
“they lived in a village called Ndeffo, a leafy, hilly land at the edge of he Mau forest ranges…”
The are a reminiscing on the author, Boniface Gachugu’s part, of the mischief he was involved in as a boy.
Peanut’s first illicit fun starts when the lower primary classes end lessons. He and other young boys go to herd animals, but they often forget their duties in favour of swimming naked in the muddy river, where they compete by racing across and diving in a ridiculous bottoms-down style they call “Kisumu City”. The cows, sheep and goats meander off into a neighboring farm, owned by a terrible man called Kamau wa Njinju, famous for administering corporal punishment to boys –and to his wife too.
Being as mischievous as he is, Peanut finally finds a way to payback Mr. Kamau for stealing their clothes and caning them whenever they go swimming.
This mischief over, Peanut and his entourage move on to the next one. The group begins to steal Nyayo milk, sneaking in through a small ventilation shaft of one of the new stone buildings that are replacing the wooden classes (described as looking more like horse stables, what with the shutter windows and timber walls with loud gaps that invite cold wind.) I know that many of us will relate to this the days when everybody looked forward to Nyayo milk.
But this mischief was short lived when the ventilation is finally sealed off, and lucky for them, the boys are not caught this time.
The author then takes us down memory lane giving us a brief history of Lord Egerton:
“Apparently the lord had taken ten years to build a mansion of more than 6o rooms, to please a young lady back in England whom he wanted to marry. But when she finally came to Kenya and saw it, she said it resembled a shack. She fled back to Europe and got married to another man. From then onwards, Lord Egerton banished all women from his sight. In fact, his farm workers had o lock up their wives when he toured his farm.”
Peanut and his friends then go and steal maize and potatoes to roast, inside the big rusty tank that was once used by the older boys and girls as a secret den for illicit making out sessions. For their purpose, the boys used charcoal stoves made out of tin cans. Unfortunately, Peanut got a double punishment when the tank rolled down hill, burning and bruising himself before he got a peppery beating from his mama. He nevertheless go special treatment as he was unwell!
Moral issues are wonderfully highlighted in this third mischievous mission, including the importance of motherly love, good manners and avoiding bad influence. The book includes a vocabulary builder and a series of challenging questions, which are excellent conversation builders for kids amongst themselves and with the adults who love them. It is also good for the older generation to look back on and have a good laugh about the past events.