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Our Discover Your World Summer Reading Extravaganza is rolling right along and I am truly hoping JIAB has shown reading families some wonderfulnew summer reading ideas thanks to the amazing book bloggers who have graced the pages of this blog over the last month and a half.
In my house, we’re always on the lookout for fun, interesting kid’s books set in Africa. Fortunately there are lots more on the shelves these days than there used to be. Unfortunately many are too advanced for my five-year-old Sprout, or they deal with topics that he’s just not ready for yet.
So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find the Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke. This is a funny, upbeat series set in modern-day Africa, featuring a multi-racial, multi-generational family. How much more awesome could you get?? And even more fortunately, Anna Hibiscus is geared toward the younger spectrum of readers, which means these work as read-alouds for kiddos my age, and as great stories for emerging readers as well.
Anna Hibiscus features adorable illustrations of Anna and her family – her mother, who is Canadian, and her father, who is African, plus her extended family and baby brothers, twins named Double and Trouble. I love the feeling of family and community the pictures give – breaking down any barriers readers might experience when thinking about life in Africa, and showing the common themes that run through any small child’s everyday world. Each story in the book tells about a different aspect of Anna Hibiscus’ life, whether it’s watching her mischievous brothers while on vacation, or preparing the house for a visit from a favorite Auntie. There are lots of sweet moments and plenty of laughs too – enough to keep kiddos wanting to turn pages.
Atinuke, the author of the Anna Hibiscus titles, is a Nigerian storyteller. Like Anna Hibiscus, Atinuke lived much of her early life in a big house in Africa filled with extended family. But later she moved to England to attend boarding school, and England became her home. She wrote the Anna Hibiscus books in an effort to share stories about growing up in Africa with children from the UK. And luckily for all of us, the books have spread to the US as well.
I love reading the Anna Hibiscus stories with Sprout. His eyes light up as we read about life in Africa (Atinuke doesn’t define what country Anna Hibiscus is from – which works for us, as it could easily be Ethiopia, the land of Sprout’s heritage!). It’s so great to share stories that are on his level, that present a positive family dynamic and show so many commonalities between everyday life no matter where you’re raised. Truly, when you read about Anna Hibiscus and her incredible family, you just want to join in the fun!
There are currently six books in the Anna Hibiscus series, and each is even more charming than the last. But our hearts will always belong to the first book, just titled Anna Hibiscus, which we read on vacation last summer and have continued to love ever since. In fact, as I’m writing this post, Sprout saw our copy of Anna Hibiscus sitting by my computer and yelled, “I love this book!”. So what better endorsement could you ask for?
The last story in Anna Hibiscus is all about our heroine’s deep desire to see snow. And even though I’m not much of a crafty mom, I did stumble across a perfect idea to connect with the reading by doing an activity with Sprout. Jump over to Red Ted Art to find this great tutorial on making a homemade snow globe. It’s simple and fun, a great chance for kids to get creative and even satisfies that longing to see snow that sometimes crops up on a hot summer day!
Sprout wanted to make his snow globe Star Wars-themed – hence the LEGO Luke Skywalker – and as such we opted to put in silver stars and moons (made from foil) rather than snow. (And since Sprout’s in a big dinosaur phase, he had to add an Apatosaurus figure too. ‘Cause even Jedis can get a little help from a prehistoric pal.) You could absolutely go the traditional route with a holiday theme and some glitter, in keeping with Anna Hibiscus’s wish to see the white stuff. Here’s a few pics of our snow globe in action – it was pretty hard to get good pics because the second we put this bad boy together, Sprout was shaking it up constantly!
By day, Mary Kinser is a Collection Development Librarian. By night, she’s a curator for Zoobean. And all around the clock she’s the mother of a gorgeous five-year-old boy from Ethiopia, lovingly nicknamed Sprout. She writes about diversity and adoption in children’s literature at her blog Sprout’s Bookshelf. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and pinning all things kidlit at Pinterest.