Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu (Released March 2)

Published by Candlewick

Image result for too small tola
Image result for too small tola

Summary:  Tola is the youngest of three children living with their grandmother in Lagos, Nigeria.  Because of her size and place in the family, Tola is often told she is too small and works hard to prove otherwise.  In the first story, she and Grandmommy go to the market and struggle to carry home all their purchases.  Next, Tola helps her siblings get water when the water in the apartment isn’t working.  She is almost thwarted by some older boys until some kind neighbors turn the tables on the bullies.  Finally, Tola saves her friend the tailor when he breaks his leg.  Tola has a talent with numbers, and she and her older brother bike all over Lagos to measure people for their new Easter and Eid outfits.  Tola is rewarded by the tailor with the beautiful ruffled dress that she has dreamed about.  96 pages; grades 2-4.

Pros:  These tales are completely charming, both the stories and the illustrations.  Tola and her family live in pretty impoverished circumstances, in a two-room apartment with unreliable water and electricity that is paid for by a father working in England.  But her circumstances are described in a very matter-of-fact way, with a much greater emphasis on the love and caring of Tola’s family and community.

Cons:  I was really hoping for a bit of backmatter on Lagos and Nigeria–at least a map.

I happened to listen to a TED talk recently that is the perfect complement to this book. If you have fifteen minutes, listen to The Danger of a Single Story by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who grew up in Lagos.