Before we get started: If you look up and then slightly to the right, you’ll notice a new feature on my menu labelled “Bookshop.” With the help of my web-savvy husband, we set up an Amazon shop for Little Book, Big Story.

In that shop, you’ll find every book mentioned on Little Book, Big Story, sorted by category and displayed by image. For you visual learners, this is exciting stuff!

And if you buy books through that bookshop, I get to buy books, too: a small percentage of every purchase made through the shop will help me purchase more books to review for this blog. (It is also worth mentioning that I have started converting the links on this blog to Amazon affiliate links, which means that anything you purchase through those will help keep me in books, too.)

And now for our regular programming!

Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

I have a bittersweet relationship with early reader chapter books. I say “sweet” because those chapter books are legion: my daughters can check out seven books in a series and savor them throughout the week, and I don’t have to pre-read every one.

But I also say “bitter” because many of the early reader series tend to be a bit flat: they incorporate interesting historical or geographical elements, but the characters remain pretty static and the stories tend toward the formulaic—I suppose they must if they’re to have fifty or more books per series. The more of these we borrow from the library, the more I find myself willing to settle for fewer books of better quality.

Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

Anna Hibiscus is the first early chapter book I’ve found that strikes both the educational and the character-rich chords at once. Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa (“Amazing Africa!”) with her Canadian mother, her African father, her twin baby brothers, and all her aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. She doesn’t travel through time or make a single pun on the word “mouse,” but Anna Hibiscus does long for snow, love her family, and learn a bit about how truly wealthy she is.

Atinuke paints an enchanting picture of urban life in Africa through the musical language of her characters and through sweet stories about Anna herself, while Lauren Tobia’s illustrations portray a family life that is rich and vibrant, even in black and white drawings.

Anna HiAnna Hibiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Storybiscus, by Atinuke | Little Book, Big Story

I found myself actually wanting to read these books aloud to my daughters—rare praise for a genre that caters toward independent readers! There aren’t many books in this series, which gives me hope that the rest of them will be as well-written (and charmingly illustrated) as the first.

Have you found any early chapter books worth reading aloud? Which ones?

Anna Hibiscus
Atinuke, Lauren Tobia (2010)