By Atinuke; Illustrations by Lauren Tobia
Early reader, Ages 5 and up
Walker Books Ltd, 2007
Kane Miller EDC Publishing 2010 (paperback)
additional formats: audio book
Boston Globe Horn Honor Book 2011
Strong girls and their families have plenty in common the world over. Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke offers us a peek at them, African style. Anna lives in a large white house with her African father and Canadian mother. This is modern Africa, a place of blended cultures, “an amazing city of lagoons and bridges and roads, of skyscrapers and shanty towns.”
In simple chapters that work like a sophisticated interrelated short story collection, this book gives early readers a fresh lens on simple things like a beach vacation, boredom on a hot day, or the excitement and worries of relatives visiting.
The beauty of the book lies largely with the characters, all of whom are developed with simple, spare text. We meet elder grandparents who are held in the highest respect, fabulously-named relatives like Aunty Comfort and Uncle Bizy Sunday, poor girls selling oranges to sustain their families, and chattering cousins, aunts, and uncles who cheerfully attend to wailing babies without much regard to which child belongs to whom. There is plenty of gentle comedy that sits alongside thoughtful text about serious issues, such as poverty and the impact of modern ways on traditional values.
It’s not surprising that Anna Hibiscus was awarded the Boston Globe Horn Book Honor award in 2011. Best news of all? There is an entire series of Anna Hibiscus books to devour. MM