Anna Hibiscus Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Anna Hibiscus Series Book Poster Image
Young African girl learns value of family in sweet series.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The lessons here are social-emotional and cultural; the books offer a glimpse of African culture, not often represented in children's literature. The themes keep returning to the immense value of family in whatever form it takes, reinforcing that that we're a part of something bigger, be that a family, a community, a nation, or the world.

Positive Messages

Each story focuses the importance of family and on some aspect of being a good person -- emphasizing generosity, caring, awareness of others, and understanding that no one person is the center of the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Anna Hibiscus leads a charmed life; everyone is kind and happy, all the adults are full of love and share that love endlessly. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Atinuke's Anna Hibiscus series is a sweet, child's-eye view of growing up in a huge, loving, extended family in modern West Africa. The writing is simple, with repeating phrases and words great for beginning readers, and each story focuses on Anna learning about the value of generosity, family, hard work, and more. These books tackle wider social issues in a simple way: Anna's family is prosperous, with a lush garden, but right outside their family compound, young girls sell oranges on the hot, dusty streets, and Anna learns that she has an easier life than other kids. The Anna Hibiscus series is published as paperbacks with four stories in each book, and as single stories with large, glossy pictures, making the books accessible to a wide range of young readers.

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What's the story?

In the ANNA HIBISCUS series, young Anna lives in what she calls "Africa, amazing Africa" with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, mom, dad, and twin brothers, nicknamed Double and Trouble. Anna's family lives in a compound, but she learns about the world beyond the walls, and learns to be kind and compassionate, especially toward those who have less than her family. When she learns that hers is the only well that still has water and that other families are suffering, she tries to make it right. Anna is obsessed with snow and wants to visit her grandmother in Canada (several books are dedicated to her trip), but wonders if her family in Africa will miss her at all. The family goes on longer adventures and just into town, but the stories always return to the importance of family, love, and kindness toward all.

Is it any good?

This is the rare series that works for both pre-readers and beginning readers, because the stories are short but vibrant and packed with details. And the single-story books have lots of beautiful illustrations. Anna Hibiscus brings readers into a culture not usually explored in young children's literature in the United States, but readers can easily relate to Anna's feelings. Fluent readers will read these quickly, but the vocabulary and characters' names will keep their attention, and the books are great to be read aloud.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how family is portrayed in the Anna Hibiscus series. Ann's family is so big, and all of the family members are so much a part of one another's lives. How is your family like Anna's, and how is it different? What do you think of the names of the children?

  • Anna's mother moved from Canada and to Africa. Did your family move to a new country, or do you know anyone who did? Why would someone move to a new country, and what might be hard about that?

  • What other stories about big families have you read or seen in the movies or on TV? Which are your favorites? 

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