Reviewed by Lauren Parnell Marino
Too Small Tola by Atinuke is a delightful book which introduces a slate of charming characters to young readers. The collection of three short stories focuses on the daily lives of Tola, a young girl growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, and her Grandmommy, sister, and brother. Each chapter presents an account of Tola’s trials and triumphs. We watch as Tola makes a strenuous visit to the market, copes with the effects of a water outage, and assists a neighbor with his work after he is injured. Tola is a resourceful, kind, and energetic kid who quickly wins the reader’s affection and admiration.
Too Small Tola does a wonderful job depicting the lives of this working-class Nigerian family while portraying the drama of daily life through the perspective of a young girl. What I loved most about the book is that it takes Tola’s life on its own terms. It doesn’t exoticize life in Lagos nor does it shy away from some of the challenges that exist for poor and working-class families. It certainly doesn’t pity its characters, who are fully empowered and wonderfully developed. Characters are presented as whole people, not as stereotypes. While Tola and her family may live in a “run-down block of apartments” with “stained walls” surrounded by “rough potholed bare earth,” they lead full lives. They make time to enjoy an ice cream treat, buy diapers for a neighbor, and do their homework on the family’s computer. The result is a beautiful and complex depiction of life in urban Nigeria.Continue reading.
Too Small Tola by Atinuke
Published by Candlewick Press on March 2, 2021
Reading Level: Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5
Review Source: Africa Access
Publisher's Synopsis: Three delightful tales from a renowned Nigerian storyteller introduce a chapter-book heroine who is every bit as mighty as she is small.
In a trio of droll stories, award-winning author and storyteller Atinuke debuts an endearing and enduring character with plenty to prove. Tola lives in an apartment in the busy city of Lagos, Nigeria, with her sister, Moji, who is very clever; her brother, Dapo, who is very fast; and Grandmommy, who is very bossy. Tola may be small, but she's strong enough to carry a basket brimming with groceries home from the market, and she's clever enough to count out Grandmommy's change. When the faucets in the apartment break, it's Tola who brings water from the well. And when Mr. Abdul, the tailor, has an accident and needs help taking his customers' measurements, only Tola can save the day. Atinuke's trademark wit and charm are on full display, accompanied by delightful illustrations by Onyinye Iwu. Too Small Tola evokes the urban bustle and rich blending of cultures in Lagos through the eyes of a little girl with an outsize will - and an even bigger heart.