Review of Too Small Tola Gets Tough, by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

Too Small Tola Gets Tough

by Atinuke
illustrated by Onyinye Iwu

Candlewick Press, 2023. Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2022. 89 pages.
Review written May 3, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review

When I reviewed the second book about Too Small Tola, a small girl who lives in Lagos, Nigeria, I was a little critical that it made me sad that Tola’s fifteen-year-old brother had to work to keep the family from starving. But the author does make it clear that this brother hated going to school and loves being a mechanic.

This book, too, is sad. But I’ve decided that it’s a gentle way to help kids understand poverty and have compassion for people in tough situations.

In this book, the coronavirus hits. When a lockdown threatens, brother Dapo goes to stay and sleep at the garage, and sister Moji goes to stay and sleep at her principal’s home so she can continue her studies. So Tola and Grandmommy are the only ones home. Dapo plans to continue to send them money — only work at the garage slows down during the pandemic. Tola gets hungry.

A neighbor finds Tola a place where she can work as a house girl. So she can eat. (This is the sad part, to me.) Though there’s a happy ending — Tola uses math to help the wealthy owner discover he’s being cheated — and she gets to go home back to Grandmommy, with reward money.

Yes, it’s a very tough situation. But yes, Tola gets tough.

It’s all in a beginning chapter book package with three chapters and plenty of pictures. And American beginning chapter book readers can learn about an ordinary but clever girl living on the other side of the world with people who love her.

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