Title: Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia
Publisher: Kane Miller
Concepts: caring labor, markets, poverty, wealth, prejudice
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 fourth installment in the series sees Anna embarking on her much-anticipated month-long voyage to Canada to visit her grandmother. Anna experiences a roller coaster of emotions, including great sadness in saying goodbye to her family, sheer excitement from seeing and feeling snow for the first time, and utter panic in facing a dog inside of grandmother’s house. She does not know what to feel when a group of children invite her to join them for skating and sledding. They seem to be interested in her only because she is from Africa, not because she is Anna Hisbiscus. Anna will have to speak her mind and let them know she does not want to be prejudged before she can truly enjoy herself in these new winter activities.
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