Saturday, September 14, 2013

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke

I just had a conversation with a colleague about grandmother names. She told me I had to think about it now that I'm going to be one. Anna Hibiscus, the protagonist, nicknamed hers, "Granny Canada." I love it. I thought of "Granny Taipei" but that sounds like "Granny Type A" which is plain ole' weird. I'm open to suggestions. "Granny Dumpling?" "Granny Foo-Foo?" "Granny Ding-Dong?" Word choice doesn't seem to be my strong suit tonight - fightin' a cold. Ah well. Anna comes from a multicultural family with a mother who is Canadian and father who is African. Africa is Anna's home with so many extended family members she can't even count them. In a series of episodes, Anna learns some lessons in growing up and having parents from two different cultures. It is hard to find books for third world kids and its especially hard to find excellent transitional readers. You get both of that in this winner of a book.

Anna has twin baby brothers called, Double and Trouble who are oodles of work for her mom and dad, especially when they are "Awake and Angry." When Anna's parents decide to go on a vacation to the beach just by themselves, her mom is looking forward to some time alone. She grew up as an only child in Canada and finds the life on a family compound a bit overwhelming. When the babies wear everyone out, Anna's dad starts to bring his family members out to the beach house for extra hands and help. Anna's mom seems to have had a change of heart regarding being only with her family and welcomes the relatives with open arms. In the next episode the family worries about Auntie Comfort who is coming to visit from America. Will she have forgotten all their customs and traditions? Will she wear "tight-tight" jeans? The next chapter shows Anna learning about class structure and how poor those are around her family compound. In the last episodic chapter, she gets a letter from Granny Canada inviting her to visit. Anna writes back and asks if she can visit during the winter because "Snow you are so sweet-o."

Atinuke is a professional storyteller which makes her books great as read alouds given the terrific sentence rhythm and word choice. Her made-up snow song in the last chapter is precious. I would love to hear her speak. This type of writing is like poetry where it is always special to hear the author's own voice in the character of his or her creation. Anna is likable and means well even though she might not make the best choices or not realize the consequences.  The illustrations capture a young cheerful girl who has a life full of loving adults and relatives. My favorite page is Anna waiting for her letter to go and come back from Granny Canada. She has her fingers crossed as she watches a gecko and insects. She has her fingers crossed when her aunt braids her hair in corn rows and pony tails. My fingers are crossed that the students will like this book as well as I did.

Reading Level 3.6

4 Smileys

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