“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa / Amazing Africa.” For those who have enjoyed the early chapter books about young Anna and her close-knit family, this is a familiar refrain. In Anna Hibiscus’ Song, the first picture book collaboration between author Atinuke and illustrator Lauren Tobia, readers get a beautifully expanded view of Anna and the world she inhabits.
Anna is one lucky girl. Sitting in her mango tree, she can see so many things: her grandmother and grandfather on the veranda, her aunties pounding yams, an assortment of cousins and uncles and even the chickens busily pecking in the courtyard of the home she shares with all her relatives. She is overcome with happiness just thinking about how wonderful life is. As each of Anna’s family members weigh in on how they deal with the exhilaration that comes with deeply rooted contentment, Anna grows more and more overcome with joy until she is sure she will burst.
Atinuke, born in Nigeria and now living in Wales, is a gifted storyteller. Her short, clean sentences and lively dialogue imbue the text with joy as Anna leaps around, peppering her many relations with questions. Tobia’s illustrations are a perfect complement to the story. Pencil drawings, enhanced with a rich color palette, add effervescence to the tale, depicting the multi-hued textiles worn by the characters and the vibrant flowers and birds in the family garden.
Anna’s joie de vivre is contagious and young readers who have paid careful attention to the title will surely predict how Anna’s joyfulness will manifest itself. Let’s hope that this picture book is the first of many “songs” that Anna’s creators will sing.