With this effervescent tale, Atinuke introduces younger readers to the African heroine of her early chapter-book series. As Anna Hibiscus sits in a mango tree watching her family members’ various activities, she “feels so happy, she almost floats out of the tree.” Bouncing from one relative to another, she proclaims her happiness, and they all tell her what they do when they’re happy: Grandfather counts all the reasons why, Grandmother squeezes her husband’s hand, aunties pound yam, Uncle Tunde dances to music from the car radio, Papa tells Mama how much he loves her, and Mama sits “still and quiet.” Anna’s “happiness grows” with every encounter, and she eventually discovers her own way to best express her joy (the title provides a hint). In Tobia’s cheery illustrations, the family’s vivid clothing contrasts with the cool greens of the lush vegetation. Focusing on the tight bond between the characters, Tobia accentuates Anna Hibiscus’s outsize personality and loving rapport with her family. Readers will easily identify with Anna’s glee—“I am so happy, I think I am going to explode!”—and find it infectious. Ages 3�7. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Winsome Anna Hibiscus, heroine of Atinuke's series of African-set early readers, wakes up one morning so filled with happiness that she doesn't know what to do. She first tells her grandmother and grandfather about her feelings. As she follows their advice, her happiness grows. Her Auntie Jolie suggests she join her aunties pounding yams. As she tries, so her happiness grows. It continues to rise as she plays with her cousins, dances with her Uncle Tunde, and tells her mother how much she loves her. Anna is so happy that she fears she will EXPLODE! So, following her mother's advice, she climbs up into the mango tree and sits still and quiet. Inspired by the birds, she finally sings her happiness song. We see the city where Anna lives on the front endpages in daylight; on the back pages, the dark night is lit here and there. We can spot Anna and the mango tree in the day, but she is gone at night. The large pages have room for the text as well as the many actions of our busy girl. Almost naturalistic illustrations display the clothing, plants, and even the hens of Anna's contemporary "Amazing Africa." As shown in the illustrations, Anna's mother is "white" Canadian, while her father and other family members are black Africans. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS Gr 1—Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. From her perch in the mango tree, she surveys her extended family and is so happy that she does not know how to express her joy. Each relative tells her what they do when they are happy and she tries all of their methods. Finally, her mother tells her to sit quietly, so Anna climbs back up into her favorite tree and sits still. Soon, the birds come to the tree and sing. Then Anna Hibiscus knows what she can do—sing. And she does. This simple, predictable tale has a warm, loving feeling, and the plot and theme are universal. Children everywhere will think about what they can do when they are so happy that they cannot contain themselves. Large, colorful cartoon illustrations depict the action and help readers anticipate the story's climax. The end pages show a large urban setting, yet the illustrations reveal the extended family living in close, friendly quarters filled with lush vegetation. The text, illustrations, and format convey a sense of unity that stimulates aesthetic appreciation.—Margaret R. Tassia, Millersville University, PA
In amazing Africa, Anna Hibiscus discovers her own special way to show her happiness after trying out what other family members do.
From her perch in a mango tree, Anna Hibiscus observes the activities of her extended family in the compound where she lives. Her grandparents relax, her aunties pound yam, cousins scatter corn. Atinuke (Anna Hibiscus, 2010, and its sequels) brings Anna to a picture-book audience in this gentle evocation of modern West African life. Tobia illustrated the Anna Hibiscus chapter books with gray scale drawings, but here she presents Anna in full color. Digitally tinted drawings begin with endpapers revealing Anna's home, which is set between a shoreline and a bustling city, by day and by night. Varying from vignettes accompanying the text to full-bleed full-page and double-page spreads, these illustrations emphasize the warmth and love in her family, as described in the simple, dialogue-rich text. Though unmentioned in this story, they reveal what readers of the earlier books know: Anna is comparatively light-skinned; her mother is white. All the adults dress in a Nigerian style; the girls wear simple dresses. The large figures and rich colors against the white backgrounds show well to a group.
Anna's arms are always up; she's ready to embrace the world. Young readers and listeners will surely embrace her as enthusiastically as chapter-book readers already have. (Picture book. 3-7)