Review of Too Small Tola

Too Small Tola
by Atinuke; illus. by Onyinye Iwu
Primary    Candlewick    96 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-5362-1127-6    $15.99

Tola is small, but she is mighty. In three episodic chapters, Tola uses her not-inconsequential perseverance to help her grandmother, other family members, and those in her wider Lagos community. As she does in her chapter books about Anna Hibiscus (Welcome Home, Anna Hibiscus!; You’re Amazing, Anna Hibiscus!, both rev. 11/17; and others), Atinuke provides child-friendly particulars that create a vivid picture of the setting (and just as in the Anna Hibiscus titles, continually re-sets the scene: “Tola lives in a run-down block of apartments in the megacity of Lagos, in the country of Nigeria”). When the water is not working in their apartment building, Tola and her siblings must fill jerry cans at a nearby tap, lining up with their neighbors before school. When Abdul the tailor visits Tola’s family to measure them for their matching Easter outfits (“Easter and Eid do not often happen at the same time, and celebrations are all anybody is talking about”), he rides his bicycle with his sewing machine strapped on the back. Atinuke’s writing is rich with imagery and replicates the music and rhythm of Tola’s daily life. The stories are copiously illustrated with line drawings of a round-faced, appealingly welcoming protagonist. The friendly format, universal emotional truths, helpful illustrations, and strong writing work together to immerse young readers in Tola’s world.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Maeve Visser Knoth

Maeve Visser Knoth is a librarian at Phillips Brooks School, Menlo Park, ­California. She has chaired the Notable Children’s Books Committee and taught at Notre Dame de Namur University and Lesley University.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more


We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.