Title: Anna Hibiscus
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia
Publisher: Kane Miller
Concepts: caring labor, markets, poverty, wealth
Review: Anna Hibiscus lives in a lovely old house in Africa with her twin baby brothers (aptly named Double and Trouble), parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. With all these people, Anna is never lonely, and everyone does what they can to contribute to the needs of the household. Their compound, which encloses the most beautiful garden that Anna has ever seen, is nestled in a busy city filled with markets, lagoons, roads, skyscrapers, and shanty towns.
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.
This first installment of the series kicks off with a family holiday outside of the city. Just Anna and her baby brothers and parents. Double and Trouble are too much trouble though, and ultimately, the entire family, grandparents and all, have converged on the beach house to help out. In another one of the book's stories, Anna learns just how fortunate she is when she experiences firsthand the tough life lived by the children who sell fruits and vegetables on the street outside the family compound.
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.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children