'Too Small Tola'
BY: Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu (Candlewick Press, Tuesday) ages 7-9, 96 pages, $15.99 hardback.
STORY: Tola Adebayo lives in a rundown apartment house in crowded Lagos, Nigeria. She shares one room with her crafty Grandmommy, studious older sister and athletic brother. Tola is small but she has grit, and she belongs to a good community.
The residents rely on one another, which can be annoying. The block is full of busybodies. Grandmommy and Tola have to slip carefully past many doors if they hope to go shopping unburdened by obligations to shop for everyone else. They walk to the market and must tote their groceries home on foot. But they know how to balance loads atop their heads, and they take rest breaks.
Sometimes the bathroom on Tola's floor doesn't have water. Then water has to be carried upstairs from the street. Standing in line at the pump takes time — time that Tola needs in the morning to catch a van to school. She loves learning math and hates to be late.
When bullies pick on the little girl while she's fetching water, we see the flip side of community: Weak people become strong when they work together.
Muslims and Christians live almost on top of one another on Tola's block, and their celebrations coincide. One year, everyone wants new clothes for Easter and Eid. When disaster befalls the tailor, Tola's facility with math and her brother's physical ability save his family from eviction. How the kids pull it off is heroic — and believable.
Alive with unfamiliar, colorful words, this illustrated chapter book will broaden young readers' views of the world.
Read to Me is a weekly review of short books.