Anna Hibiscus – Brilliant New Series

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

Hooray for Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke

Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa in a great big house filled with relatives, including her parents, her little twin brothers, her grandparents, her many aunts, her many uncles, and all of her cousins.  She is never lonely because there is always someone to play with, share stories with, and have fun with.  In the first book in the series, Anna Hibiscus discovers that it’s not so easy to have a family vacation with just your small family.  She meets her Aunt Comfort who lives on the other side of the ocean, though she frets that Aunt Comfort will have forgotten how to be African.  Anna Hibiscus also learns about hard work and dreams of seeing snow for the first time.  In the second book in the series, Anna Hibiscus sings before a crowd, refuses to get her hair braided,  loves the quiet of nights without electricity, and travels to the other side of the city. 

Obviously written by a storyteller, these books are unique and offer American children a fascinating glimpse of life in Africa that is guaranteed to break stereotypes.  The stories are all set definitively in Africa and all of the stories have a focus on things that make Africa special.  Another positive for the books is how the simple pleasures of life are the best, something that so many children in America need to learn. 

Anna Hibiscus is a great protagonist.  She is still learning herself about the differences between her own life and that of the poor children she sees around her.  She learns about this in very concrete and tangible ways that children in any country can relate to.  Nicely, Atinuke has created books for children that instead of shying away from difficult subjects like poverty embrace them and focus attention about them.

Atinuke’s use of rhythm and repetition in her stories adds to the feeling of them being written by a storyteller.  There is also a powerful tie to the oral traditions of Africa thanks to these storytelling phrases.  Beautifully written and wonderfully simple and straight forward, these books are something very special.

Highly recommended, these books belong in all public and school libraries.  They are a wonderful modern look at Africa and the people who love her.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copies received from Kane Miller.

Also reviewed by Fuse #8.