Review: Anna Hibiscus

“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” page 7, 35, 65, 83.

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.
Kane Miller, EDC Publishing, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2010.  (First published in London in 2007.)
Elementary chapter book fiction, 112 pages.
Lexile:  670L .
AR Level:  4.1 (worth 1.0 points)  .
NOTE:  This is the first book in the Anna Hibiscus chapter book series.

Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her mother and father and baby brothers Double and Trouble.

Anna Hibiscus cover resized
Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

I’d heard about this author for a while but could not get any of her books.  Once I found them on Amazon, it took some time to determine the order.  This is the first chapter book in the Anna Hibiscus series (Atinuke also has other books).

This book is actually four interconnected short stories, so they can be read individually.

Anna Hibiscus on Holiday

Anna Hibiscus lives with her mother and father and twin baby brothers in a big compound with her grandmother and grandfather and aunts and uncles and all of the cousins.  Everything about it is perfect, except for one thing.  Her Canadian mother remembers life with privacy fondly, so they are going to take a vacation, just the five of them.  This is a lovely story about the benefits of big families and the reasoning behind the African way of doing things, perfect for introducing the Western reader to Africa and Anna herself.

Auntie Comfort

Auntie Comfort has been studying in America, but now she is coming home!  Everyone is so excited, but… will she remember how to dress? How to eat?  How to behave like an African lady?  This story addresses very real fears of assimilation and cultural loss.  There is even a bit of balance as Auntie Comfort wears a traditional dress to greet her parents, but chooses a modern swimsuit for swimming with the younger generation.

Anna Hibiscus p 70 71 resized
Pages 70 and 71 of Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

Anna Hibiscus Sells Oranges

This is a short but incredibly meaningful story.  Anna Hibiscus is bored with her pretty compound and her little cousins and her big family.  She wants to be like the orange seller girls who work in the street outside her home.  So she picks a basket of oranges and takes them out into the street.  She is clean and her oranges are fresher, so she sells a basket, then another, and the other girls sell none.  When her father comes home, she overhears him talking and realizes what she has done.

The best part of this story is the way her Grandfather addresses the issue after he finds out.  If you only read one Anna Hibiscus story, don’t miss this one.

Sweet Snow

I had to laugh.  While it certainly doesn’t snow year-round in Wisconsin, it is a routine and mundane occurrence all winter.  Some families do record the date of a child’s first snowfall.  I have heard from international friends that their first snow was a special experience, quickly surpassed by how cold it can get!  My favorite memory is of a Buddhist monk I met in college.  He attempted to keep his cold weather clothing the same color as his robes, which ironically led to him wearing fluorescent orange hunting gear.

But I digress.  My favorite part of this story was Uncle Bizi Sunday.  He is illiterate, which is mentioned, but the focus instead is on his remarkable gifts and important role in the family and Anna Hibiscus’ life.  I also appreciated seeing a man who stays at home and is portrayed as sensitive and nurturing.

###

The kids’ reaction to this one sort of confused me.  I read the first chapter aloud one night, and they weren’t very interested.  But then later they asked to read it, and my beginning reader spent quite a bit of time paging through and looking at all the pictures.  It was in the “donate-to-library” pile briefly, which caused N to react in horror that we absolutely could not donate this book.  So, I think they liked it, but maybe just didn’t want me to read aloud that night?

Anna Hibiscus p 84 85 resized
Pages 84 and 85 of Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

The interior art is much like the cover art, pencil line art with some gray shading.  Like many elementary chapter books, most every page has an illustration, with a few full pages of text and a few full page illustrations.  The artwork is the perfect compliment to these charming stories, and the little details are just right.  For example, on page 21 Anna Hibiscus’s special blanket has snowflakes and skiers on it, most likely a gift from her Granny Canada, who is referenced later in Sweet Snow.  On page 85, as seen above, one of the shirts Auntie Comfort brought from America in an earlier story is hanging out to dry.  Hair, clothing, and settings are all appropriately drawn.

There’s not much here that could be seen as bothersome.  Some parents might not like the references to bikini swimwear and “tight-tight jean”, but I felt everything was appropriate for a whole-family read-aloud.

Anna Hibiscus p 62 63 resized
pages 62 and 63 of Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

Anna Hibiscus is quite young, while the style and independent reading level of this book is better for older elementary students.  One solution to this is to read the book aloud to younger children.  Another possibility is that older children will still enjoy Anna Hibiscus’ adventures (as many older students like Junie B. Jones books about a kindergarten student).

This book is fairly quiet and gentle, not action packed.  But it will appeal to families or readers who enjoy quiet stories.  This sweet book paints a lovely picture of one large African family.  Highly recommended!

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

4 thoughts on “Review: Anna Hibiscus”

  1. Hi, there! I just wanted to let you know that the best place to find Anna Hibiscus and other books published by Kane Miller (and Usborne Publishing, in the US) is an Independent Consultant or the Educational Service Representative (ESR) working with your library as the books on Amazon are either used or published for other countries (so content and language may be different than what is published in the U.S. for the U.S. Market Educational Development Corporation (also known as Usborne Books & More/UBAM for the retail and non school and library divisions) stopped selling to Amazon back in 2008 and some of their books are ONLY available through consultants. Consultants tend to be educated on the best books for different interests, age groups and needs and can help advise with selections. If you do not have a consultant or do not know who the ESR is working with your Library/library district, please contact EDC directly so they can provide you with a contact! EDC is located in Tulsa, OK and are available by phone 9a-5p CST. Here is their phone number: 918.622.4522
    Yes, I am an Independent Consultant and ESR with the company and I came across your review while looking for an Independent Review for one of my school clients. Thank you for checking out books outside of the mainstream, I think I can say, with confidence that the smaller publishers and authors very much appreciate it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kate for your detailed response! Since writing this review, I actually connected with an Usborne rep at one of my schools who was able to get the whole series there, and I’ve also ordered it for our family. Unfortunately not all of the schools I work with are able to purchase from them. Some schools only purchase from Scholastic or through major distributors like Capstone, McGrawHill, or Pearson. I’ve also been at schools that don’t have any budget for library books so I have to solicit book-by-book donations through individual families/outside donors, which makes ordering from smaller publishers challenging.

      I’m so glad that my review was useful for your school client. Although the style and content of ColorfulBookReviews has evolved along the way, helping parents, teachers, and librarians find the best diverse books has always been a primary goal – and Atinuke is definitely an author who should be more widely known!

      Like

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