Modern and Traditional: A Review of ‘Anna Hibiscus’

“Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living.” – Pope Francis

Reading Level

AR 4.1 (1.0 point)

Independent readers ages 9-12

Interest Level


Review and Comments

Anna Hibiscus is a delightful story about a little girl and her devoted family. Each chapter begins with the same words, “Anna lives in Africa with a very large extended family.”  Their bond is undeniably strong throughout the stories she relates to the reader. Her parents freely share their love with their children.  Her grandparents, the elders in the family, express their wisdom not only in oral lessons but in their exemplary daily living. Anna learns a very important lesson about charity with her grandparents’ guidance.  Their sacrifice is truly inspiring.  The support of the aunts, uncles, and cousins is also obvious and emphasizes their attitude that “It’s not good to be alone.  We have to help each other.”  The family believes in “proper African ways,” but they also embrace modern ways.  It is obvious that Anna is very happy to belong to this family where love and support are given every day.

There are many comparisons made throughout the stories that call attention to interesting differences yet none are labeled right or wrong. Anna gives a very good description of her home compound and the exciting city right outside her gate.  She loves them both.  Her mother grew up in a small family in Canada while her father grew up in Africa in this large family, and Anna finds the differences very interesting.  And when they travel in a boat for a family vacation, Anna notes details as they pass a large city and then a rainforest.  She sees beauty in it all.  While on vacation, her family enjoys their alone time away from the larger family group but by the end of the vacation everyone has joined them.  It is obvious the larger family unit has benefits for everyone.  Then, Anna meets an aunt who left home long ago and it is undoubtedly a very happy occasion for everyone.  The aunt shows the family that she still joyfully embraces family traditions and also exhibits a few adopted “modern” ways.

The story ends with Anna receiving an invitation to visit her Granny Canada for Christmas.  New experiences, new people, and snow!  This will be quite an adventure for her.  Read about this trip in book 4, Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus!

This wholesome story is a very good story for young readers. Even though the culture in the story may be different than the reader’s, the strong family unit is a refreshing example of affection and respect among its members. 

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion

Family Names:

Many of Anna’s family names mean something special.  There is: Comfort, Miracle, Joy, Wonderful, Sweetheart, Clarity, and Common Sense.

  1. Why do you think those names were chosen?
  2. If you could choose a name with a special meaning such as these, what would it be? Why would you choose that name?
  3. Does your name have a special meaning?

Art and Writing:

Draw a picture of Anna’s house using her description at the beginning of each chapter.

Draw a picture of each major character.  Write a short description about each character or write adjectives that describe each person.

Compare Anna’s large family in Africa, her mother’s family In Canada, and your family.

  1. Write a paragraph about each.
  2. Make a Venn diagram showing the similarities and differences of each family group.
  3. Divide a chart into three columns. Write words or phrases that describe each family group.

What traditions does your family follow?  Are these traditions from your father’s family or your mother’s family?


Atinuke is the author of the Anna Hibiscus series.  She is from Nigeria.  She says, “I chose Africa because I did not want to write specifically about Nigeria. I wanted to inhabit a more fictional world. And for people to know that Anna’s happy middle class world exists all over Africa.”

  1. Locate the continent of Africa on a globe. Locate Nigeria.

Award: Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, 1967-2019 (Honor, 2011)

Other books in the series by Atinuke:  “Each of the stories represents a different idea/theme in Anna’s life: wanting to have personal space, dealing with younger brothers, respect for elders, traditional African ways v. modern conveniences, hard work, compassion, and others.”

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Catholic Resource

Great African Saints:

St. Augustine [feast day August 28]

St. Anthony of the Desert [feast day January 17]

St. Moses the Ethiopian [feast day August 28]

St. Josephine Bakhita [feast day October 1]

For the full article click here.

Read “Catholic Tradition: Life in the  Spirit” to learn more about tradition in the Catholic faith.