Nigerian-born children’s author Atinuke introduces a memorable new heroine in Too Small Tola, which contains three short, illustrated stories.
Tola lives in Lagos, Nigeria, the most populous city on the African continent, in an apartment that she shares with her older brother, sister and grandmother. The book’s stories explore facets of Tola’s everyday life. She helps Grandmommy shop for groceries, she deals with the neighborhood bully as well as the electricity and water being shut off in her building, and she helps her neighbor, Mr. Abdul the tailor, finish his work so that his family can have their Eid feast.
Atinuke is a masterful storyteller, playing with language and rhythm as she evokes Tola’s world. Every sentence is fun to read—a quality that shouldn’t be underestimated in a book created for young readers still learning the ropes of independent reading. Each tale ends by coming full circle back to its beginning, and the stories echo and connect to each other in ways that will reward multiple readings. Too Small Tola’s gentle morals linger with an unusually satisfying combination of inevitability and surprise.
Atinuke surrounds Tola with appealing characters and a vibrant setting full of wonderfully specific details, such as the treats Tola and Grandmommy share on their way home from the market. Illustrator Onyinye Iwu renders Tola and her family in endearing and expressive images that capture their personalities perfectly. Too Small Tola will make readers eager to read more about Tola; Lagos is clearly bursting with more stories to tell.