Lauren Tobia, Illustrator
Candlewick Press edition, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2022
Suitable for ages: 6-9
Themes: Africa, Nigeria, Family, Traditions, Economics, Class, Poverty, Vacations
From acclaimed Nigerian storyteller Atinuke, the first in a series of chapter books set in contemporary West Africa introduces a little girl who has enchanted young readers.
Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa, amazing Africa, with her mother and father, her twin baby brothers (Double and Trouble), and lots of extended family in a big white house with a beautiful garden in a compound in a city. Anna is never lonely—there are always cousins to play and fight with, aunties and uncles laughing and shouting, and parents and grandparents close by.
Readers will happily follow as she goes on a seaside vacation, helps plan a party for Auntie Comfort from Canada (will she remember her Nigerian ways?), learns firsthand what it’s really like to be a child selling oranges outside the gate, and longs to see sweet snow.
Nigerian storyteller Atinuke’s debut book for children and its sequels, with their charming (and abundant) gray-scale drawings by Lauren Tobia, are newly published in the US by Candlewick Press, joining other celebrated Atinuke stories in captivating young readers.
What to I like about Anna Hibiscus:
Such a delightful and entertaining chapter book that contains four individual stories about Anna and her family and their life in West Africa. Children will be happily introduced to Anna’s very large Nigerian family, their traditions, economics and the differences between classes in an age-appropriate way. Pen and ink illustrations wonderfully compliment the stories.
Children in North America don’t live in extended families. They will be intrigued to learn how important family is to Anna’s family. There are many aunties who work together to shop, prepare food, care for the children, uncles who work, and grandparents who are wise. No matter how noisy and rambunctious, family is everything!
Anna learns that first hand in the very first story when she goes on seaside vacation with her parents (Canadian mother, African father) and her two brothers. It’s boring. It’s a lot of work for her mother. And Anna’s is run ragged babysitting her twin brothers, Double and Trouble. The arrangement isn’t working and soon the entire extended family members begin to arrive at the cottage. And then the fun begins.
I am pleased that Candlewick is now publishing the Anna Hibiscus series of books in the US. Anna is such a spunky and curious character with a big heart. She will take young readers on a journey through Nigeria where they will learn about how other children live.
Atinuke was born in Nigeria and spent her childhood in both Afria and the UK. She works as a traditional oral storyteller in schools and theaters all over the world. Atinuke is the author of many children’s book, including the Anna Hibiscus series, the No. 1 Car Spotter series, Too Small Tola, Africa, Amazing Africa: Country by Country, and Catch that Chicken. Atinuke lives on a mountain overlooking the sea in West Wales.
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*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.