Thursday, August 05, 2021

Small Girl, Big Heart! Too Small Tola by Atinuke

Tola lives with her Grandmommy in an apartment in the city of Lagos, in the country of Nigeria.

With Grandmommy also lives Tola's big sister, Moji, who is very smart and is studying for exams at her borrowed computer, and with big brother Dapo, who is a very fast runner, especially at football.

Tola is small, like her Grandmommy, who is not tall but is strong and tough. But one day she needs to do a lot of shopping for food in the market, which means she needs someone to help her carry it all home. But Moji needs to study for a test and Dapo is busy warming up to star in a game outside.

"Wait until I return!" Grandmommy shouts.

"Then you will work!"

Grandmommy asks little Tola to come along with her. Tola is small, but so is Grandmommy, and if she can do it, So can Tola, so Tola balances an empty basket on her head and sets out for the market with Grandmommy. It is hot and noisy and busy, but at last they arrive at Mile 12 Market, where Grandmommy begins to fill both their baskets to the top with a smile. Tola loves to count out the money just right, and she does, but she feeling tired already.

"You are small," Grandmommy says, "but you are strong like me."

If Grandmommy is that small but that strong, maybe Tola can be strong, too!

And Tola is strong, but although she and Grandmommy are mighty, they get phone calls asking that they bring football glue for Dapa, diapers for Mrs. Abdul's baby, and a new computer mouse for Moji. The baskets are very heavy. They have to stop to rest, sharing ice cream, cold drinks, and a donut on the way, making her brother and sister jealous.

But Tola is again tested, when the neighborhood tailor, Mr. Abdul, breaks his leg and is unable to go about the city to measure his customers for their new clothes for Easter and Eid. Grandmommy offers Mr. Abdul the services of Tola, who is an expert measurer and money counter, and Dapa, who is fast, very fast, at pedaling Mr. Abdul's bicycle.

"I am a lucky man! Mr. Abdul proclaims. "I have the best measurer in all of Lagos taking my measurements!"

Is Too-Small-Tola up to such a big job?

Tola comes through with perfect measurements for the styles the customers order. Mr. Abdul rewards her with a pretty new Easter dress with many ruffles, and Dapa can boast that he has the biggest and strongest calf muscles of anyone on his football team, in Atinuke's, Too Small Tola (Candlewick Press, 2021). With artist Onyinye Iwu's charmingly humorous illustrations on each page, this is a perfect beginning chapter book for budding readers in which perseverance is rewarded, rivalrous siblings are tweaked, and all ends well for all concerned, thanks to Tola, that is, if with her new mouse, Moji passes her exam with flying colors! Good things come in small packages, they say, and this petite heroine is one who punches way above her weight! Says Book Page's starred review, "Atinuke is a masterful storyteller, playing with language and rhythm as she evokes Tola’s world. Every sentence is fun to read. . . . Too Small Tola’s gentle morals linger with an unusually satisfying combination of inevitability and surprise. . ."

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