Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls

Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
October 18, 2022
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Acclaimed author and storyteller Atinuke reunites with illustrator Onyinye Iwu for a follow-up to their highly acclaimed first chapter book about a little girl with a mighty will and charm to spare. Too Small Tola lives in an apartment with her clever sister, Moji; her big brother, Dapo; and Grandmommy, who is very bossy. In the first of three endearing new adventures, Tola is sized just right to wriggle under the bed and rescue Grandmommy’s prized possession when it goes missing. Her savvy and math skills save the day when Grandmommy gets sick, and when the family can’t afford new clothes, industrious Tola finds a way—with a little help from Grandmommy—to be just as fine as the three fine girls she so greatly admires. Richly patterned black-and-white art and Atinuke’s captivating wit evoke an authentic and close-knit urban community and the vibrant energy of Lagos, Nigeria, through the eyes of a tiny but resolute heroine with something to teach us all.

Editor review

1 review
Life in Lagos
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Like Atinuke's Anna Hibiscus, Tola lives in Nigeria. Unlike Anna, Tola lives in an apartment in Lagos with her Grandmommy and two older siblings, Moji and Dapo. While her grandmother sells roasted groundnuts on the street, the family has enough money to send the children to school. Moji studies hard and hopes to be a doctor, while Dapo is not fond of school and Tola is still very young. When they are home from school one day when their grandmother is working, they are tasked with cleaning the stones out of the rice for their meals. Moji wants to study, Dapo wants to goof off with a soccer ball inside, and only Tola works on the rice. When Dapo's ball hits a shelf with the grandmother's treasured gold earrings, Tola works to find them and leaves her siblings to clean the rice. Luckily, the story ends happily with the earrings being found. Sadly, Grandmommy becomes ill with a fever that a neighbor thinks is malaria. The family is fortunate because they have a hidden store of money, but when it is all spend on medication from a pharmacy, the children are soon hungry. They take their grandmother's place selling groundnuts, but despite their best efforts, they don't sell as much. Dapo isn't helpful, and instead hangs out with men repairing vehicles. When he shows a flair for that, he decides to pursue it full time rather than school because they money is good. Tola is thankful that her family is able to survive, but has moments when she envies the more well to do girls she sees in the city. When her grandmother, whose hands pain her because of arthritis, does her hair in intricate braids with beads, and Tola is allowed to go to a local festival with a neighbor, she realizes that there are some things for which the "fine girls" can envy HER.
Good Points
Illustrated with Onyiny Iwu's black and white drawings, Tola's adventures are very interesting. Young readers in the US will be surprised that Tola is kept out of school so long when her grandmother is ill and it falls to her and her siblings to provide basic necessities for themselves. Readers who have enjoyed Simon Spotlights' Ready-to-Read Living In... series will find the details of Tola's daily life intriguing in the same way that I was enthralled with Sidney's The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.

Early readers are a great way to explore the world with different characters, and there have been a lot of good new ones lately. Hena Khan's Zara's Rules books, Faruqi's Meet Jasmine, Grimes' Dyamonde Daniel, and Look's Alvin Ho are all series that have characters that, like Tola, are determined and resilient in their outlook on life and have a lot of great adventures!
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