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Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! Paperback – March 1, 2011
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In this set of adventures, the onset of harmattan, or the dry season, means that the whole family must learn to conserve water. After carefully saving their water, they are able to keep their garden going... until big-hearted Anna realizes that there are poorer folk living in town who need the water more. In the next story, Double and Trouble more than earn their names when they dip into the candy supply, and leave Anna Hibiscus to take the blame. Finally, in preparation for her upcoming trip to visit her Canadian grandmother, Anna's well-meaning family take her shopping for "oyinbo" clothes to wear in the cold weather. Anna's mother is an oyinbo, or foreigner with white skin, and the whole family wants to make sure that Anna looks good and stays warm for her big trip abroad.
While the book never explicitly states what country Anna Hibiscus lives in, or how old she is, I have to assume that she is probably a first-grader, and writer Atinuke says she was inspired by her own childhood growing up in Nigeria. The appealing illustrations which decorate nearly every page and large type make for a comfortable read for readers new to chapter books. I will put this series into the hands of children who are hungry for stories with black characters that are not set during the Civil War, or the 1960's. Lucky for us, warm, relateable, and unique, Anna Hibiscus is certain to take her rightful place beside Junie B. Jones, Clementine, Ruby Lu, Ramona and other classic early middle-grade fiction.
In this setting, Anna navigates through a series of adventures and learning moments that take her anywhere from the garden to the market and well beyond, even to Canada where her mother was born. Each of these adventures is described as a short story in a series of four books.
Anna begins and ends this third book with two different scenarios preoccupying her thoughts. In the book's first story, the dusty African wind known as the Harmattan has blown sand from the Sahara Desert all over the city. The next four months will bring no rain, only dusty, dry wind. While the family's compound has a well that will supply them with enough water if everyone is very careful, Anna is distressed to learn that many children in the city have no water, and she thinks of a way to help. By the last story, Anna is preparing to visit cold Canada, home to her grandmother and an abundance of ice and snow.
The book series is written by a gifted story-teller, Nigerian-born Atinuke, and illustrated by Lauren Tobia with an abundance of expressive sketches. Many of the stories include some sort of an economics theme, including the role of markets, the contrast between abject poverty and wealth, and the gender division of labor within the home. Although the author does not specify which country Anna is from, which could contribute to unrealistic generalizations, the books provide young readers with a unique view of the wonders of life in a large extended family in an urban African context.