Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Anna Hibiscus

Anna Hibiscus

Illustrator:  Lauren Tobia 
For ages 6 to 8
Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2010   ISBN: 978-1935279730

Anna Hibiscus lives in a large old white house that is surrounded by beautiful gardens. She shares the house with her mother, her father, her twin baby brothers (who are called Double Trouble), her grandparents, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. Surrounded by so many people all the time, Anna is never lonely.

One day Anna’s Canadian mother tells Anna that when she was a girl she lived in a house with her mother and father and no one else. She even had her own bedroom, which she didn’t have to share with anyone. Anna and the rest of the family are shocked. Imagine what it would be like to sleep alone.

The very next week, Anna’s father announces that they (Anna, her parents, and her brothers) are going on a holiday. They are going to stay in a house on the beach. At first, this seems like a good idea, but it soon becomes apparent that there are advantages to having a large family. Without anyone else around to play with, Anna is soon lonely, and her parents struggle to manage the twins, the cooking, and the housework. How can you have a holiday if you have to work the whole time?

In this charming book, there are four stories about Anna Hibiscus and her loving, busy, and rambunctious African family. Readers will get to meet Auntie Comfort, who comes from America to visit her family in Africa. Then there is the story of how Anna discovers that she is very lucky to have the life she has. Finally, there is a story about how Anna Hibiscus finds a way to see snow.

In every story, the author tells her tale in such a way that you feel as if she is in the room with you, telling you about Anna Hibiscus and her adventures. The author’s voice is lyrical and musical, and she captures the essence of the strong oral storytelling tradition that is found in many parts Africa.