Review of Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls, by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

Too Small Tola and the Three Fine Girls

by Atinuke
illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

Candlewick Press, 2022. 96 pages.
Review written March 10, 2023, from a library book
Starred Review

You can’t help but love Too Small Tola. This is the second early chapter book about her, and the author quickly brings you up to speed:

Tola lives in a run-down block of apartments in the megacity of Lagos, in the country of Nigeria. Tola’s sister, Moji, is much cleverer than Tola. Tola’s brother, Dapo, is much faster than Tola. And even short-short Grandmommy is taller than Tola. Which makes Tola feel so small-o!

There are three stories in this book. I loved the first one. On a Saturday, when Grandmommy is out selling groundnuts by the road, the kids are supposed to clean stones out of the rice, but Tola’s stuck doing it herself. I love the way she tricks her siblings into doing all the work instead. It’s essentially their own fault, too.

The second story made me sad. Grandmommy is very sick with malaria. The kids have to get into her secret stash of cash for medicine, and then they have to go sell groundnuts at Grandmommy’s station for two weeks while she’s still sick, instead of going to school. The punchline to all that is that Dapo gets a good job as an auto mechanic, but it was hard for me to be happy for him, since he’s now a kid working and providing for his family instead of going to school. It’s not presented as a sad story, and it opens American kids’ eyes to another world, but it made me sad.

The final story has Tola envying three fine girls — and by the end those same three girls are envying her. It definitely ends the story on a happy note and reminds the reader that you can have a happy life even if you’re poor.

The chapters are short, with plenty of illustrations. The stories reflect kid concerns — but this kid lives in Nigeria, which immediately makes the stories all the more interesting.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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