Reviews /

Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls

Authored by Atinuke
Illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Published by Walker Books Ltd

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Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls by Atinuke is a vibrant, convincing chapter book, ideal for children wishing to include short novels or short stories in their reading diet. It consists of three chronological tales that could be read as an entire narrative or separately, depending on the reader’s stamina or preferences. Each story begins with a helpful summary of context and a repetitive refrain, bound to delight and reassure newly-confident readers.

Tola, the heroine, lives in Nigeria with her siblings and Grandmummy. What they lack in material possessions, they make up for in humour and resilience. The strength of the book is simply its strength. Tola is certainly not ‘too small’ when it comes to logic, strategy and empathy. She is a ‘mighty’ role-model for both girls and boys. I really like her and young readers will too.

The plot does not shy away from reality. The reader sees the effects of malaria, inequality, poverty and jealousy. But this is life, after all, and story is a powerful vehicle in education. I feel that there is more than enough wit and warmth to maintain a mindful balance. The ways in which characters respond to hardship might generate discussion with readers, who may have experienced trickier times of late.

It is clear that Atinuke has expertise in oral storytelling. Turn of phrase, dialect and flair with figurative language propel the narrative. I particularly like the addition of ‘-o’ to show a call or reiteration as in ‘Now look at them -o!’  and the comparison of plaiting hair to telling stories. The beauty of this book lies in the assured narrative, accompanied by Onyinye Iwu’s bold illustrations of modern Nigerian people. Vivid description, sensory detail and expression bring the reader in.

I can see this enjoyable book enabling young readers to think about what they might bring to the world. Now that is a ‘mighty’ thing!