The Best African Children's Book That Will Make You Happy and build cultural competency
I remember my dad telling the story of his coworker’s daughter asking him if people lived on trees in Africa. He had to explain to the daughter of an engineer that no, there are actually houses and streets and cars and stores in Africa, just like here. People live in homes, just like here. But yes children in Africa like to climb trees, just like little children here and everywhere in the world!
Now this is an extreme case of ignorance 40 years ago in post-war Germany but I honestly believe crazy prejudices like that are unfortunately not that far fetched even now. The reason for prejudices and ignorance is often a lack of information or the omission of topics in our textbooks.
And that is why I love Anna Hibsicus. This little fun-loving sweet and smart girl introduces us readers to a diverse and beautifully rich world of Africa versus to (what we so often encounter in children's book) African landscapes, starving babies and safaris. Anna Hibiscus teaches our children what living in Africa is like. She covers heaps of fun, love and joy but the author skillfully understands to also weave in hardships that are unique to Anna Hibiscus’ context.
I could probably write a 10,000 word blog post on this book series called "Anna Hibsicus" and its amazing little girl hero because she truly captures our hearts each time we read it. Every book begins and ends with "Anna Hibsicus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. And Anna Hibiscus is amazing too." Drop the mic stylistic device of repetition dream for every writer.
But one of the main reasons why I like the Anna Hibiscus series so much is that it so gently and charmingly dismantles negative stereotypes of Africa that I've seen deeply cemented in our societies. Surpassing any ethnicity and not even halting at people of African descent I've been sadly amazed at the amount of ancient prejudice and plain old ignorance we stumble across when it comes to images of African countries. But Anna Hibsicus makes you laugh, smile and learn all while you learn about Africa in all its differentness and sameness.
So Africa is more than one country and Africa is more than Safaris (:
(Regarding Safaris, side note: and you don't have to read this. It's totally random and feel free to skip this paragraph to go straight to the next on more in Anna Hibsicus and the books. But if you are still reading this little "blah"
on safaris, PLEASE, please next time you talk to an African about your recent or upcoming Africa trip don't comment on the best thing of your Africa trip having been the safari. No seriously, maybe it's just me and my little thing but I've heard it so much and i think I'm allergic to safari talk. seriously begin to ... [get hives, scream, vomit, laugh, mourn, ... you chose]...oh well. Why? Because I believe when someone has the opportunity to meet a new country or continent, the most important ones to meet are people. It would be like me saying the best thing about my trip to Europe was the zoo... instead of bragging about the amazing new friends I made all over Europe, the food I tasted and learnt cooking from them, the conversations we shared, the gifts we exchanged. When do we engage with people? But let me get off my safari soap box since I know I'm the only one standing in it and everyone else I meet loves safaris).
So back to Anna Hibsicus. (That's the good thing about blogs you can just write to your hearts content and resets can just skip over stuff that's boring to them without offending you:).
Well, what I love about Anna Hibiscus is that by reading her adventures we as readers learn so much about contemporary and traditional West African culture without it being conveyed in dry text book format. It's safe to say that after your child reads a book on Anna Hibiscus he or she will have taken a few classes on cultural competency. Why do people do what they do, eat what they eat, wear what they wear, thinking a certain way? The reader will have gotten acquainted with the entire family and their values and life's as well as with geographical and environmental facts of West Africa.
The series is filled with authentic life, the easy and hard parts of life, and seen through the innocent loving eyes of a little girl. I especially love how Anna Hibiscus introduces our western world to the concept of more community focused (versus individualistic) world view with all its beauty and complexities.
Anna Hibsicus comes in picture books with large beautiful pictures (0-8 years) and as chapter books (those contain some pictures too). But all of them are really, really good and will keep you and your students laughing and dreaming of Africa! (But no safaris please:).
I gave tye Anna Hibsicus books their very own blog post because they deserve a VIP spot in any diverse or diversity aspiring library. Do yourself a favor and enjoy them.
Happy diving into Africa!
Educator, writer, bookworm and mama of three. A lover of all things nature, diversity & healthy.
"Education is nothing else than discovery.
And discovery full of diversity is beautiful."
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About the author
My name is Nancy. I'm a teacher, home educator, wife, mother, writer and accidental German-Ghanaian transplant to the U.S., in love with California and all things diversity.