Great Illustrated Books

Anna Hibiscus

By Atinuke

Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2010
Pages : 109
Suggested Ages: 5-9
ISBN: 9781935279730

In this first of a series of four chapter books we meet the exuberant Anna as she goes about her life in "... Africa. Amazing Africa." While the city Anna lives in is never identified, the story is based on the Nigerian childhood of author and professional storyteller Atinuke.

The stories are uniformly delightful – from a beach vacation with her African father, Canadian mother, and twin baby brothers where Anna learns the value of her extended family to an experience that helps her better understand the profound economic disparities that exist in her world. Told in episodic chapters that are perfect for single-reading sessions, each book in the series has a connecting theme moving Anna a little farther outside the compound where she lives with her grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.  Like all young children joining the bigger world, Anna learns simple lessons with the gentle and supportive assistance of her adult family members and the readers learn along with her. In Hooray for Anna Hibiscus, she begins school, making her five or six, and manages after great trepidation to sing in a stadium for a visiting head of state. The final two books, Good Luck Anna Hibiscus and Have Fun Anna Hibiscus, focus on her preparations for and then visit to her Canadian grandmother at Christmas time where she achieves her desire to experience snow.  Adding to the joy of these charming stories are Lauren Tobia's deceptively simple black-and-white illustrations; they represent Anna's energy and the life around her beautifully.

Perfect for emergent readers to read on their own, this book and the rest of the series (Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!, Good Luck Anna Hibiscus!, and Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!) are also great read-alouds.  For children wanting more of this sort of story, Grace Lin's The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat or Sara Pennybaker's Clementine series might serve well.  And for more on contemporary African life through the eyes of a biracial child, check out Penda Diakite's I Lost My Tooth in Africa.

Reviewed by : ME


If you love this book, then try:

Pennypacker, Sara and Marla Frazee. The Talented Clementine. Hyperion, 2007.

Warner, Sally and Jamie Harper. Super Emma. Puffin, 2008.

Couloumbis, Audrey. Lexie. Random House Books for Young Readers, 2011.

Critics have said

Never didactic, the fluid storytelling is enhanced by Tobia's charming illustrations.