Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia. Candlewick Press, c2007, 2022. 9781536225198
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. In a country called Nigeria.” So begins each of four stories included in this reissued collection, originally published in 2007. Anna is a little girl with a big extended family, and they all live together in a big gated compound – grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins as well as Anna’s father and mother and her twin baby brothers, Double and Trouble. In the first chapter, Anna’s mother, who grew up in a small family in Canada, is feeling overwhelmed by her African in-laws’ busy home life, so Anna’s father decides to take their nuclear family on a beach holiday. They quickly realize it is impossible to take care of twin babies, keep house, cook meals, AND relax, and soon enough the extended family materializes at the beach house so that everyone can have a turn to rest. The second story revolves around the highly-anticipated visit from Auntie Comfort, who has been living in America. Anna’s grandparents worry that Comfort won’t remember how to do things the African way – will she be wearing tight jeans instead of properly tied wrappa, or eating with a knife and fork instead of her fingers? With a little help from a favorite uncle and some modern technology, Anna figures out a way to make sure that everyone is happy with Comfort’s visit.
The third story takes a slightly more somber tone. When Anna thinks it would be fun to spend her day selling oranges like the girls she sees on the street outside her home, her wise and compassionate grandfather teaches her the truth about these children in a way she will never forget. And the fourth entry sees Anna celebrating the wonder of snow, which of course she’s never seen. She tries to recreate snow in a variety of ways, but true excitement arrives when she is invited to spend Christmas with her grandmother in Canada.
Young readers will really love getting to know Anna Hibiscus and her family. From the antics of Double Trouble, the friendships with a seemingly never-ending stream of cousins, and the warmth and wisdom of all of Anna’s elders, these entertaining stories provide a window into a culture readers may not be very familiar with. They also help to show that kindness, compassion, and familial love are universally valued. The award-winning author is an acclaimed oral storyteller, and that comes across clearly in the way Anna’s tales are written, with authentic phrasing and dialog. Cute black and white illustrations throughout the book add to the fun. Kids will likely be excited for further entries in the series – will Anna Hibiscus get to see some snow on her visit to Granny Canada?
Anything you did not like about the book? No
To whom would you recommend this book? 2nd and 3rd grade readers who enjoy humorous series with engaging young heroines such as Clementine, Juana & Lucas, or Stella Diaz.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: June 23, 2022