Review: Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!

“But the aunties’ heads must be so hard by now, Anna thought. After centuries of pulling and tugging and yanking, their heads must be as hard as concrete.” page 39

Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.
Kane Miller, EDC Publishing, Tulsa, OK, 2010.  (First published in London, 2008.)
Elementary chapter book fiction, 112 pages.
Lexile:  660L  .
AR Level:  4.1 (worth 1.0 points)  .
NOTE:  This is the second book in the Anna Hibiscus chapter book series.

The continued adventures of Anna Hibiscus and her family in amazing Africa.

Anna Hibiscus 2 cover resized
Hooray for Anna HIbiscus! by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.

I wrote a few years ago about the first book in this series, simply titled Anna Hibiscus.  While I loved the story and one of my older children read it independently, at the time of that review, they hadn’t enjoyed it as a read-aloud.  Well, it was indeed just a moody day, because we have since been loving this series as a whole-family read aloud choice.

Much like the first, this book is actually four interconnected short stories which could be read individually.

Anna ‘biscus! Sing!

Anna’s younger twin brothers, Double and Trouble, are older now and can say a few words.  They love to listen to Anna Hibiscus.  So they ask her to sing, and sing, and sing.  But when a visiting president comes, will Anna be able to share her song?

The relationship between these siblings and watching them all grow is one of my favorite parts of this series.  Many stories also have a bit of a twist, and we found this one delightful.

Your Hair, Anna Hibiscus!

Anna Hibiscus is what some call “tenderheaded” and this story addresses hair braiding time.  I sat down to read this story with most of the family while one of our little girls happened to be pitching a fit over having her own freshly washed hair re-braided.

Atinuke’s description is pitch-perfect, and Anna Hibiscus’s reactions rang so true to our family’s experiences, it was a joy to read.  Chemicals are frowned upon, but otherwise the text respects different styles.  “Pompoms” (called puffs in our area) are cute, but leaving hair up in them without care, headwraps, or protective styles at night is not.  Anna Hibiscus does get teased a bit so teachers may want to preread, but she also learns valuable lessons about personal hygiene.

Anna Hibiscus 2 p60-61 resized
Anna Hibiscus learns to love her hair in the second volume of the chapter book series.

Anna Hibiscus and the New Generator

Of all the Anna Hibiscus stories we’ve read so far, this one least engaged my children.  They enjoyed the goat, but the idea of the generators and losing power was just too much for the little ones to understand.  A story better suited for slightly older children or ones who have some understanding of city life in Africa.  If I were still in the schools I would probably do some hands-on and imagining activities to help the kids understand this chapter better.  However, this chapter illustrates an important part of life in Anna’s city and segues well into the next.

The Other Side of the City

In the first Anna Hibiscus book, she learned to empathize with the girls who sell oranges outside her family’s home.  This chapter is about how Anna wanted to see the other side of the city, across the lagoon.  Everybody tells her no, it’s a poor place, not a good place, not something she should think about.  So she asks her grandparents if it is bad to be poor, and they assure her that it is not, but it is difficult and sometimes hard to look at.

Anna Hibiscus 2 p105 resized
Anna Hibiscus regrets dressing up in her Sunday best when she sees the poor children who live across the lagoon.

Anna dresses up in her finest clothes for the journey across the city, and what she does when there might surprise you.  The last story ends as the first one began, with her brothers shouting her name.  Atinuke has a special gift for writing children’s stories about the poor with beauty, honesty, and compassion.

###

The interior art is much like the cover, pencil line art with some 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.

In particular, the reversed pages of white text on black background during power loss before the generator kicks in added quite a bit to the story, or the images of Anna Hibiscus sneaking downstairs.  Hair and clothing are appropriately drawn, even in the braiding story.

Anna Hibiscus 2 p66-67 resized
The text reverses cleverly on pages 66 and 67 of Hooray for Anna Hibiscus!

There’s not much bothersome here.  Naughty behaviors are dealt with gently but not rewarded.  Before handing this to a sensitive reader, you may want to check the scenes of desperate poverty in the final story, but once again I felt everything was appropriate for a whole-family read-aloud.

I expected the kids to want a break from Anna Hibiscus after this book, but they wanted more.  So glad I was able to purchase the rest of the series!

This volume has considerably more action and adventure than the first, but hasn’t lost its sweet appeal.  I’d continue to highly recommend this series for elementary classrooms, families, and individual readers.  

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.

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