Review: Anna Hibiscus’ Song

“And oh! Anna’s happiness grows SO big!” page 23

Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia.
Kane Miller, EDC, Tulsa, OK, 2011.
Picture book, 36 pages.
Lexile:  500L  .
AR Level:  2.1 (worth 0.5 points)  .
NOTE: This picture book follows the same characters as the chapter books.

Anna Hibsicus is so happy she could burst!  So what can she do to let some of her happiness out?  Well it turns out there are all kinds of things she could do.

Anna Hibiscus' Song title page resized circle
Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobia. This book was clearly once published by Kane Miller in the USA, so its sudden disappearance is frustrating.

Finally, I got my hands on one of the Anna Hibiscus picture books!  These are out of print in America, and I cannot figure out why.  They were once available through Kane Miller, which in the US is distributed through Usborne.  I tried to order them the same way I ordered the chapter books, but none of the distributors that I contacted were able to get them.  They were clearly once published through Kane Miller in the USA, since the used copy I purchased in the end has that publication information.

To add to this mystery, I was told by one of the Usborne distributors that Kane Miller is now discontinuing the Anna Hibiscus chapter books and we were lucky to have purchased the complete set before that happened.  How frustrating to see such good books no longer be available!  I truly hope that they come back into print in the US soon, and hopefully in a way that is more accessible to schools and libraries.

From which you can probably gather, I am a fan of this picture book as well.  In fact, my whole family is and I’ve read it for the bedtime story to a certain little one more times than I can count.  Even Husband will stick around for an Anna Hibiscus story.

Anna Hibiscus' Song p19-20 resized
Pages 19 and 20 of Anna Hibiscus’ Song show her dancing with Uncle Tunde.

I think this one takes place before Anna Hibiscus’ younger twin brothers are born, but they could just not be shown in this particular book.  Anna Hibiscus is sitting in the mango tree and feeling overwhelming with joy.  She goes from one family member to the next asking what each does when they are simply so happy they might explode!

And yes, that does take the entire book because even without her twin baby brothers, Anna Hibiscus lives in a traditional African household with her aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents.  Every person has their own suggestion for what they do when they are overwhelmed with joy and Anna Hibiscus tries them all, but they simply make her happiness grow.

Eventually, she’s able to figure out what is her own best way of expressing joy, and let all that happiness out into the world.  I won’t spoil it, but you can probably make a good guess as to what method works for Anna Hibiscus!

This book would make a great addition to a feelings corner.  There aren’t enough picture books about Black boys and girls depicting happiness or joy, and I can’t think of another one actually set in Africa.

Anna Hibiscus' Song p11-12 resized
On page 11 and 12 of Anna Hibiscus’ Song, she tries to pound yam with her aunties.

The artwork is on point as usual with a mix of plain and detailed backgrounds.  Anna Hibiscus is biracial (for those who haven’t read the chapter books yet) with a white Canadian mother and Black African father (country is not specified but presumed Nigeria).  I would have appreciated a bit more nuance in the rest of her family, but the pictures compliment the text well, appeal to both kids and grown-ups, and hold up to multiple readings.

Truly, I can’t wait to track down the rest of these marvelous books.  There are some authors I read a few books by and then they go right past auto-buy to the category where I want to read every book they ever write.  We have been getting as many Atinuke books as we can, although many aren’t available in the US so completing our collection is going to take some time and patience.

Although I hate to suggest out-of-print titles knowing how hard they can be to find, 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.

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