Today we are chatting with Atinuke, author of Anna Hibiscus
Read on for more about her, her book, and a giveaway!
Atinuke was born in Nigeria and spent her childhood in both Africa and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the award-winning Anna Hibiscus series, illustrated by Lauren Tobia, as well as Hugo, illustrated by Birgitta Sif, and Too Small Tola, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu. Her other books include Baby, Sleepy Baby; Baby Goes to Market; B Is for Baby; and Catch That Chicken!, all illustrated by Angela Brooksbank. Atinuke lives in Wales.
About the Book: Anna Hibiscus
From acclaimed Nigerian storyteller Atinuke, the first in a series of chapter books set in contemporary West Africa introduces a little girl who has enchanted young readers.
Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa, amazing Africa, with her mother and father, her twin baby brothers (Double and Trouble), and lots of extended family in a big white house with a beautiful garden in a compound in a city. Anna is never lonely—there are always cousins to play and fight with, aunties and uncles laughing and shouting, and parents and grandparents close by. Readers will happily follow as she goes on a seaside vacation, helps plan a party for Auntie Comfort from Canada (will she remember her Nigerian ways?), learns firsthand what it’s really like to be a child selling oranges outside the gate, and longs to see sweet snow. Nigerian storyteller Atinuke’s debut book for children and its sequels, with their charming (and abundant) gray-scale drawings by Lauren Tobia, are newly published in the US by Candlewick Press, joining other celebrated Atinuke stories in captivating young readers.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write Anna Hibiscus?
Children in schools in the UK and the US asking what it was like to grow up on the African continent. They assumed it was all wild animals and mud huts. Sadly many children still do.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the story?
They came together really. I started thinking of the stories I could write based on my childhood and the name came straight away. Our garden was full of hibiscus bushes where a lot of my childhood was spent hiding out.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I am most proud of the scene where Anna walks back and forth to the market – discovering how very hard it is to be a working child – and discovering that the consequences of her actions affect not only her, but people she loves too.
YABC: Aside from Anna Hibiscus, who is your favorite character?
My favourite character is grandfather – he’s just so loving and wise!
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I really love the blue background of this new American edition now available with Candlewick.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
A girl at a book festival in Kenya once said to me – “Thank you for writing about Anna Hibiscus. Thank you for showing the world that we are important too.” And a Somalian father in a library in the UK once said – “Thank you for writing about the No.1 Car Spotter. Before my children read those books I was too ashamed to tell them about my childhood. But when I saw how much they loved No. 1 I was able to tell them all about it – and now they think my childhood herding camels was really cool!”
That is the main message – a childhood on the African continent can be many things – including modern, fun, interesting, joyful, and important.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m working on some non-fiction books about Black British history that I’m very excited about. And some very fun picture books too!
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
My editors have taught me so much about the craft of writing. Hone, hone, hone. Cut, cut, cut. Craft, craft, craft.
YABC: What advice do you have for new writers?
Find a routine, and write, write write. Most of what you write will never see the light of day – but the good stuff won’t be written unless you’re at your desk.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I’m really loving Chris Haughton’s Shh! We Have a Plan, and Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
SOS Children’s Villages is a charity very close to my heart. It provides family homes for orphaned and abandoned children in purpose built villages around the world. One of the few books I had as a child was The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier. I read it so many times – sobbing each time. It was so dear to me – and is possibly one of the reasons that children’s homes are close to my heart.
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
When Anna Hibiscus was first published, it was set simply in “Africa, amazing Africa”. It was a conscious decision. There are so few children’s books set in modern Africa that I wanted any child of African heritage to be able to pick up the book and claim it as theirs – to see themselves in it. In this new edition I have made the decision to name Anna’s country – Nigeria. There are more books now set in Africa for children to see themselves in – and I do not want to play into the stereotype that Africa is one place, one country.
Book’s Title: Anna Hibiscus
Release Date: April 12, 2022
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: First Chapter Book
Three winners will receive a promotional bookmark and a signed hardback copy of Anna Hibiscus (Atinuke)~US Only
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*