Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia. Candlewick Press, 2023. 9781536225242

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Paperback

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Anna Hibiscus is dismayed to awaken one morning to a hazy brown sky.  She and her little cousins think it means their garden and everything green has died; their older cousins quickly reassure them that it is harmattan time.  Wind from the Sahara blows sand across their Nigerian home and city, and will continue to do so for four months!  Through a series of four stories, readers can follow Anna and her large extended family as they live and work together throughout the harmattan time. While Anna’s family has plenty of water in their well, they are still careful to conserve.  They save their bath water to give their gardens a good long drink each night (which also rinses away the sand).  Anna soon learns that the girls who sell fruit just outside her family’s gate do not have the luxury of bath water, and, in truth, the whole city is suffering from water scarcity.  Anna relays this information to her family, and they all agree to try to find ways to help.

One hot harmattan afternoon, the whole family is lounging outside trying to stay cool in the shade of the garden -the whole family, that is, except for Anna’s rambunctious twin baby brothers Double and Trouble.  They are determined to catch Koko, the family’s pet parrot, and steal one of his tail feathers.  When Grandfather announces it is time to go inside to nap in their air conditioned bedrooms, everyone but the twins is relieved.  The twins stage an elaborate escape back outside, where their pursuit of Koko is put on hold when they find an even sweeter treasure.    

Harmattan time also means that Christmas is coming, and Anna Hibiscus will be going to Canada to visit her grandmother and play in the snow.  That also means she needs some warm clothes.  The family rummages through every cupboard and drawer, and doesn’t come up with anything appropriate, so Anna’s big girl cousins decide to take her shopping at the “oyinbo” clothing stores in town, but Anna’s disapproving grandmother has other ideas.  As she prepares to leave for a month in Canada, Anna is nervous about spending that much time away from her family.  To make matters worse, everyone in the house is too busy to spend time with her or talk to her about her worries.  She fears they have already forgotten her, but soon learns that quite the opposite is true.

Young readers will really love reading about 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. 

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: March 23, 2023

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