Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! and Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus!
Master storyteller Atinuke is back with two new early chapter books in the Horn Book Award-honored series about the delightful African girl who has captured the spirit, adventure, innocence, and questions of childhood. In Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna prepares for her first visit to her maternal grandmother in Canada, while in Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus!, Anna finally travels to Canada for the Christmas holiday season. As in the first two books of the series, each chapter can work as a single read-aloud, beginning with the memorable lines, “Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa,” offering a separate episode in Anna’s life, and highlighting the importance of family support. The chapters provide both mirrors and windows into a childhood that is simultaneously familiar and foreign: in one, she must find clothes warm enough for her first snowy winter; in another, she suffers false accusation that she ate a whole jar of sweets when in actuality she was trying to stop her infant twin brothers from doing so; and in still another chapter, she grapples with the notion that Granny Canada treats a dog as a friend and family member (“Dogs live outside and eat rubbish”). With the help of Lauren Tobia’s appealing pen-and-ink illustrations, Atinuke presents the portrait of Anna and her extended family as devoted and determined; middle-class, multicultural, and modern; good-natured and generous; strong and sensitive. Furthermore, Anna continues to explore issues of privilege, prejudice, and social class, learning a new life lesson at the end of each chapter. However, the set up is entirely buoyant and engrossing—and Atinuke’s voice so nuanced and captivating—that the books deftly avoid sounding didactic. If you or your students haven’t yet made friends with Anna Hibiscus, get ready to be instantly charmed.
NOTE: For specific commentary about Book 1, see our children’s literature reviews co-authored with Julie Roach in Language Arts, Vol. 88, Iss. 3.
Grades 2 and up
- Character Comparisons. Early chapter book series about young girls have been gaining popularity over the decades. Share a few of the series listed below in the Further Explorations section (e.g., Clementine, Ruby and the Booker Boys, Ivy and Bean, etc.) and have students compare and contrast the female protagonists in each. What is similar and different about their personalities? Interests? Family life? Experiences?
- Experiencing Seasons Differently. Different communities experience various seasons depending on their geographic location. Some cycle through four seasons (i.e., fall, winter, spring, and summer), while many only experience two important ones—rainy seasons and dry seasons. Additionally, people in different countries can experience the same season differently. Anna Hibiscus experiences harmattan each year in Africa, which covers their gardens with dry, blown sand and signals the upcoming Christmas holiday. When Anna visits Granny Canada for the holiday, she must adjust to foods, clothing, customs, and recreational activities in a cold climate. Invite students to investigate the seasons in various countries and to pay special attention to how those seasons affect vegetation, food production, clothing, traditions, and people’s daily lives.
- Family Names and Nicknames. Many of Anna’s relatives have unique and telling names, based on their character attributes and personalities. Have students interview their family members about the meaning of their names and nicknames. Invite them to share the stories and information they gather. Ask them whether they think the names match the characteristics and personalities of those family members. Finally, have them also investigate their own names—how they got them and what they mean—and write short stories about what they discover.
- The Art of Bartering and Haggling. Many cultures continue to use a bartering system to purchase and sell goods; others also embrace the practice of haggling over the price of an item. Set up a mock market in your classroom and have students barter and haggle for items as a way to practice their oral language, negotiating, and reasoning skills. Invite them to also use the mock market activity as a way to explore the value people place on objects (e.g., sentimental, monetary, professional, etc.) and to discuss such concepts.
- Analyzing African Proverbs. Characters throughout the books utter proverbs from time to time. For example, Grandmother says, “The chicken that mistakes itself for a peacock forgets to run from the cooking pot!” when she learns that a local boy pretends to be someone else. Have students identify and list the proverbs in each book. Then, have them work in small groups to determine the meaning of each proverb, including the cultural context from which the proverb came. Do they believe any of the proverbs to ring true, and if so, why?
- What Makes a Family? Anna Hibiscus lives with a large extended family. Other family members make appearances throughout the books as well, such as Auntie Jumoke, her father’s second cousin, and Granny Canada, her maternal grandmother. How does Anna’s family life differ from or resemble those of your students? How does the definition of family look in different communities? How has it changed over time? You might want to visit the non-profit, non-partisan Council on Contemporary Families website listed in Further Explorations for research and statistics about the changes, needs, and challenges that modern day families face. Invite your students to inquire into the essential components that make up a family.
- Issues of Privilege, Poverty, and Perspective. The themes of privilege and poverty that appeared earlier in the series continue in these latest books. Have students review the chapters in which Anna and her family deal with such issues. Why is it that Anna and her family sometimes learn hard lessons about them? Are they wrong in their initial intentions to water their plants during harmattan while their city neighbors deal without water? Going back to Book 1, was Anna wrong to sell oranges on the street alongside the other girls? Were the actions of Anna and her family short- or long-term solutions? Discuss with students more possibilities about what Anna and her family could do to address these issues, and perhaps invite your class to take some real action steps to help.
Atinuke’s author website – Walker Books (original publisher)
Atinuke’s author website – Kane Miller (US publisher)
Atinuke storytelling videos
African Proverbs, Sayings, and Stories
- A delightful series about a young African American girl’s life with three older brothers.
Barrows, A. (2006-present). Ivy and Bean series. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
- An award winning series about the daily escapades of two second grade girls.
Cameron, A. (2001). Gloria’s way. New York: Puffin.
- An early reader book with episodic chapters describing a young African American girl’s fun and frustrations with family, friends, and school.
Cleary, B. (1968-1999) Ramona series. New York: HarperTrophy.
- The treasured series about an enthusiastic young girl with an active imagination.
English, K. (2009-2011). Nikki and Deja series. New York: Clarion.
- An early reader book series about two African American girls experiencing the daily complexities of being 8-years old.
Hoffman, M. (1991-2011). Grace series. New York: Dial.
- Starting with the beloved picture book Amazing Grace, this series follows the experiences, explorations, and sometimes global adventures of a young girl with an active imagination and fierce sense of determination.
Pennypacker, S. (2008-present). Clementine series. New York: Hyperion.
Filed under: Fiction Chapter Books
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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