Written by Atinuke, illustrated by Lauren Tobias
These days more American picture books feature racially diverse children than ever and international picture books are increasingly published here, but it’s still hard to find early chapter books with children who are black, and children living in other parts of the world. This joyful series about a little African girl named Anna Hibiscus is a revelation — the books ring with laughter even as they stab at your heart. In sprightly language and adorable line drawings, they tell the story of a little girl whose eyes are wide open to the beauty and the struggles of the place where she lives. A sense of strong community and mutual caring permeates throughout, with Anna both enjoying the routines of everyday life at her family’s comfortable compound and, often, confronting and trying to help children who have much less than she does. Atinuke, who lived in Nigeria as a child but is now based in Britain, works as a traditional oral storyteller, and that’s evident: She keeps Anna’s stories moving while seeding them with helpful repetition and bits of warm humor.
LITTLE TIM AND THE BRAVE SEA CAPTAIN
Written and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
Frances Lincoln, $18.99
Little Tim may be the original free-range child. These books were originally published in the 1930s, and they have aged wonderfully. Four have been reissued in handsome volumes, with classic pen-and-ink and watercolor art and big, old-fashioned letters telling the tale of Little Tim, who can’t be more than 6 years old, but “wanted to be a sailor.” He stows away on a steamer and kicks off a life at sea, with occasional trips back to see his relieved (but understanding) parents. There’s adventure and danger, of course — in the first book, everything from seasickness to a harrowing storm that almost dooms Tim and the Captain — but it’s all told in direct, clear language. The tone is just a tad mock-serious, but eminently respectful of the childhood wish for greater agency. If you’re new to Ardizzone’s art, you’re in for a treat — his dazzling pen lines and watercolor brush strokes dance across the page, creating stirring vistas of the sea alongside witty, humane portraits of Tim and the people he encounters.
By Patricia MacLachlan
MacLachlan, the author of the beloved novel “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and many other books for children of all ages, makes her…