Thursday, August 24, 2017

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus

Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!
written by Atinuke; illustrations by Lauren Tobia
2017 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

She was so glad to see her cousins, so glad to be back in the room they shared, so glad to be back in the big white house, so glad to be back in Africa, amazing Africa!

Anna Hibiscus is back! Back with her family in Africa after a visit with Granny Canada and back on the printed page after a six year hiatus. Like the earlier books, book five is divided into four chapters as each one, although connected to the others, can easily stand alone as a story. If you haven't read the previous four books, you will want to do so to help you better understand what is happening. The first story focuses on Anna's return from her trip to Canada. Delighted to be home, Anna is soon confused as family members see, in photographs, her love of Granny Canada's dog and they are not happy about it. She wonders what to do when she has changed but others have not. Also appearing in the first story is a rescued baby chick that Anna names Snow White. The chick figures prominently in the second story as Anna struggles to make it behave. Several family members are disrupted by the chick and it even causes problems at school. Thankfully, wise Grandmother finds a solution. In the third story, Anna's Canadian friend Tiger Lily has come to Africa to visit her father. What's really interesting to read about are the contrasts between the two friends. They have very different living situations which highlight comparisons of family and wealth. The final story sees Tiger Lily's father visiting the compound and a delightfully warm and funny gathering ensues. Then, Tiger Lily returns to Canada and Anna is sad. Her sadness leads her to Grandfather, but he curiously is not feeling so good himself. Anna finds a way to cheer him up and set the stage for book six.

I'm not sure I know of an early chapter book series that carries the depth of the Anna Hibiscus series. Big, big themes are present here even though the reading level fits nicely for readers in late first and early second grades. Great discussions about families and disparities in wealth could be had in the classroom as you read this book. Young readers are quite ready to think about these things. You should also ask yourself this question: How many books, not just early chapter books, feature an African family as the main characters? How great is it to bring this world to our students? I cannot recommend this series highly enough. I will be featuring the final three books in the coming weeks.

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