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
It’s never good when your parents announce that they have difficult news. Just ask Eleanor.
She is having the worst August ever. Her best friend Pearl is away in Oregon, and now her parents announce that her beloved Bibi can no longer be her babysitter. Bibi is moving to Florida to care for her sick father.
Losing the daily companionship of someone we love is awful, no matter how old we are. Eleanor just can’t seem to feel better, even as the weeks of summer go by. Why should she try to make new friends with the awful wild child Agnes from upstairs? And how can her parents possibly expect her to behave for her new babysitter, Natalie, who is nothing at all like Bibi? Her sadness takes all kinds of unexpected shapes: misbehaving for Natalie, little thefts, even free lemonade for the mail carrier who might bring letters from Bibi.
With humor and a keen eye, Julie Sternberg brings us a story of how a strong girl learns to let go and adapt. I love this book because it is sweet and smart about how girls grieve, all while making us laugh. And best of all, it reminds us that the people who love us never stop, even when they are far away. MM
By Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca
Early reader/Grades 1-5
Marty McGuire is not a girly-girl, but she possesses excellent manners. Marty would never call her classmate Veronica Grace a bossy pants, even though she is one. A born naturalist, Marty yearns to spend her days outside catching bull-frogs and exploring the creek. Oh, she’ll go along, amiably wearing a tiara and practicing a waltz if it means hanging out with her best friend, Annie. But, what matters most to Marty McGuire are the great outdoors, her idol Jane Goodall, and helping Annie remember that it really is more fun to get muddy than to act all prissy.
No one would ever call Marty McGuire a princess. No one that is except her maracas-shaking third-grade teacher, Mrs. Aloi, who casts against type and names Marty for the lead role as princess in the class play. Marty begs, pleads, and downright refuses the role. Thankfully, even Marty McGuire is no match for the double-threat of her mom and Mrs. Aloi. Mom and Mrs. Aloi know that only Marty could bring a sense of daring and a naturalist’s sensibility to the role of princess in The Frog Prince. Ribbit! Let the adventure begin!
Marty McGuire is a delightfully quirky story about a girl who is not afraid to be herself, nor is she afraid to change. Kate Messner weaves many layers into this frog-catching, conformity–resisting, tiara-wearing tale of friendship. The schoolyard and classroom settings are full of detail and authenticity; kids will feel right at home with Marty McGuire and her friends. As an added benefit, by the end of Marty McGuire you’ll know how to tell male frogs from females, which will come in handy when naming the frogs in your pond. GA