Title: Good Luck Anna Hibiscus!
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia
Publisher: Kane Miller
Concepts: caring labor, markets, poverty, wealth, scarcity
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.
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.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children