Go Well, Anna Hibiscus!
written by Atinuke; illustrated by Lauren Tobia
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
And today was the day that Grandfather was going! He was going with Grandmother and the big girl cousins, Joy and Clarity and Common Sense.
Book 6 of this series finds Grandfather needing to get back to his home village. Away from the noise of the busy city and to a place "where there are more goats than people." Each chapter could be a standalone story with the thread being the contrast between Anna's city life and the village of her beloved grandfather. In each chapter, there is also a big life lesson. Chapter 1 is the first part of a bus trip to the village. Anna shows great compassion to a boy that is traveling with three goats. He is hungry and Anna asks her older cousin Joy to buy food for the boy. A lady who doesn't show compassion meets a hilarious fate on the bus. In Chapter 2, Anna learns to adapt. After a bus trip of many hours, Anna and Joy must walk through the bush to get to Grandfather's village. It is a tiring journey in the hot sun carrying her pet chicken in a basket. Even though her city aunts would frown upon it, Anna makes her load much lighter by putting it on her head. Now she is walking like the ladies of the bush. Chapter 3 shows Anna being very brave. Life for her in the village is not easy. Everything is different including the food. Village children call her names because of her lighter skin color. She longs for her mother who is back in the city. When Anna hears the cries of her frightened grandmother, she jumps into action and leads away a pack of stray dogs by thinking of a solution. Though encouraged by her bravery and by Grandfather, Anna is quite lonely in the final chapter. The older people all have others to spend time with but she has no one. Her grandparents encourage her to work on her spelling homework. With no paper in the village, Anna draws her letters in the dirt. Looking over a wall, the village children watch. Anna eyes them defiantly as she remembers the earlier slights. Finally, one of the children asks her to teach him. Soon all of the children are learning to write. Even so, they don't seem very inviting. It's when they are able to teach her a skill that a friendship blossoms.
One of the strengths of the Anna Hibiscus series is that it takes readers to a place most of them are unfamiliar with. City and village life in Africa is not a subject that comes up very often in our schools. These books will transport readers and help them discover the similarities between themselves and Anna. All of us have times where we feel lonely, where we need to be brave, where we learn to be compassionate. Anna is all of us.