Posted by: Sarah Stokes | February 16, 2012

A Song from the Heart

Anna Hibiscus’ Song

Atinuke and Lauren Tobia, London: Walker Books Ltd, hb. 978 1 4063 1833 3, £11.99, 2011, 32pp.

“Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa.” And Anna Hibiscus is a little girl so full of happiness that she needs to find an outlet for it, and fast. So she sets off to ask all the important people in her world just exactly what she can do with such an abundance of happy feelings.

Her Grandfather tells her to count her fingers and toes to see just how big happiness can be. Her Grandmother shows her how holding hands with the one you love can feel simply wonderful. Her Aunties tell her that happiness is a form of strength and encourages her to use such strength help them pound yams for supper. Her friends teach her to turn somersaults, her Uncle turns up the music and together they dance.

Such an infectiously happy story cannot fail to delight its readers, with its combination of affectionate text and glowing illustration. But this book offers something far more than a simple narrative about feeling happy. Anna Hibiscus is a mixed race child, living with her prefominantly black African family and her white mother. In addition to this, her mother is evidently pregnant with a second child.

What I find so refreshing is that, far from being an ‘issue’ book about race or sibling rivalry, the narrative in this picturebook pays no attention whatsoever to either of these two facts. They have no bearing on the story about Anna’s search for an appropriate display of her own happiness. Instead, they are incidental elements which can only serve to deepen a young reader’s appreciation of the story by perhaps being noticed during a second or third re-reading. The family exists in perfect harmony with their world and nothing is made of skin colour or the signs of an imminent birth. It may be this that is making Anna Hibiscus feel as happy as she does. Again, no reference is made to the root of her happiness; there is plenty of space left for readers to make up their own minds.

This is such a positive reflection of a mixed race family and I would recommend it to any reader of any age. Oh, but I warn you: be prepared to sing along with Anna Hibiscus on the final page …. you’ll find it hard not to!

HT to Walker Books for image



  1. I love it when picture books incorporate issues without the message taking over the story. I’ll definitely have to look this one up!

  2. Agreed! Thanks, embracingthegeek. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: