The books which have influenced Atinuke as an author

posted in: Atinuke | 11

When I recently got the chance to interview Atinuke, author of the Anna Hibiscus and the No. 1 Car Spotter books we’ve fallen in love with, I also asked her if she would share with us 8 books that reflect pivotal moments in her life so far, with particular reference to her journey towards becoming a published author. Here’s what Atinuke had to say…

Thank you, Zoe, for a very special question. I have spent a gorgeous morning delving in my memory and bookshelves and revisiting these dear old friends.

Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley

I had four Milly, Molly, Mandy books in a box set that I loved. (The printed price on them is £1.45!!!) Anyone who has read both Anna Hibiscus and Milly Molly Mandy will know what a huge influence those books had on my writing. J.L.B showed me that wonderful stories could be written about the ordinary doings of an ordinary family. Especially as they might not be so ordinary to someone else!

Katie Morag by Mairi Hedderwick

I had very few books as a child – there were very few available in Nigeria in the early 70s – and I often felt starved for them. Then when I was at University in the UK I had neighbours with an enormous collection of children’s picture books. I gobbled up those wonderful books – as delighted to discover them at 19 as I would have been at 5! Katie Morag was my favourite. More stories about an ordinary-extraordinary family.

Buffalo Woman by Paul Goble

Again I only discovered Paul Goble’s picture books as an adult. I love them, I could practically eat them, every single detail of the illustrations and every single careful word. I remember the first time I had one in my hands – giving it back to its owner was so hard! Those books showed me how important children’s books can be, as an expression of love, and as a record of cultures that are practically gone transformed, and transforming fast [Correction 12 Feb 2012 at Atinuke’s request – see comments below].

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Reading this book was very important for me, as a young African teenager recently moved to live in white, western culture. And as important was how popular this book was at the time. I remember thinking, “Oh, so one is allowed to write black stories. That counts as important too!”

Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe

I laughed and cried when I read this book. It is impossible to describe the feeling, after years of reading and loving books with a passion, to one day open a book, a great book, and find that it is written about the world that one comes from one’s self. Thank you, Achebe. I am forever grateful.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This book, along with Love in the Time of Cholera, opened my mind to a whole new approach to writing and what can be expressed through words when one lets go of the “real” world. I remember reading them as a teenager and feeling terribly excited. An excitement which I still feel.

Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This book inspired me to follow my intuition. I might never have started telling stories, or writing them, or sending them off unseen to Walker books, otherwise!

Loving What Is by Byron Katie and Stephen Mitchell

This book helped me to unlearn the things I needed to before being able to write Anna Hibiscus.


I can only thank Atinuke for sharing her selection of books with us today. What a wonderful, interesting collection – and for me a personal delight that she included the Katie Morag books, which are some of our very favourite picture books. I’m off now to reserve Buffalo Woman, but what’s the first book from this list you’d pick up?

This week is turning out to be a little festival celebrating Atinuke! Tomorrow I have a review of her newest book, The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird, so I hope to see you back here then 🙂

11 Responses

  1. choxbox

    This is such a treat Zoe!

    Milly-Molly-Mandy was gifted to us by our old neighbour, she gave us her copy. Much loved by the resident 6-yr old. Printed price – 29p!

    Same with Katie Morag – also the 6-yr old’s favourite (and her moms’ too!). Plus we have a dear friend who lives on the Isle of Skye and she has shown us photographs of her house and the island that look like they have been taken straight from Katie Morag!

    Look fwd to your review of No.1 Spotter.

  2. Darshana Khiani

    I have never even heard of the first three books, maybe since I am in the US. Will have to check it out. Looking forward to tomorrow’s book review.

  3. se7en

    Milly Molly Mandy was my mom’s favorite, My favorite and my oldest daughter’s favorite… a favorite from generation to generation!!! And as a family we can’t love Katie Morag enough … LOVE… we have exactly the same grannies and “You can’t kick your granny off the bus” resonates!!!! We love the details in the illustrations and the clear thinking story line – just love it!!! There are books on her list I have been dying to read: “Women who run with wolves” and I should have read “The Color Purple” by now… surely!!! How I missed it as a set-book I have no idea!!!

  4. Zoe

    Oh Choxbox, so glad you saw this – I thought of you and your girls immediately when Atinuke chose Milly Molly Mandy as her first book – I thought your 6yo would be specially pleased to share something like that with Atinuke 🙂

    Hi Darshana, Milly Molly Mandy is quintessentially English, whilst Katie Morag wonderfully Scottish, so yes, neither may be well known in the state, but I can’t recommend them enough.

    As for Paul Goble, was born in England but now lives in South Dakota. His specialism is Native American stories, and in 1978 he won the Caldecott medal for The Girl Who Loved Wild HOrses – it’s still in print in the US

  5. Zoe

    Ah Se7en, I’m going to be singing the granny song all day now! In fact, once everyone’s up I might even try it out on the accordion :-)I haven’t read WOmen who run with wolves yet either, though at university it seemed like all the women were.

  6. Jody

    Goble’s books are challenged by many parents, teachers, and leaders of different American Indian tribes. For one thing, his books contribute to the mistaken belief that American Indian cultures are almost gone. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    For a brief overview of some complaints about Goble’s books, you might want to consider this blog post (not written by me or anyone I know personally!):

    Librarians and teachers should seriously consider buying “A Broken Flute,” which is a book for collection development in American Indian subjects, written by American Indian scholars and teachers.

    I’m sorry to sound so didactic about this. My kids attend US schools that offer a lot of truly awful, stereotype-laden books about Native peoples, and I wish that people knew about the many wonderful books that are available as alternatives.

  7. Zoe

    Dear Jody,

    I really appreciate you taking the time to comment so thoughtfully. I cannot speak for Atinuke of course, but given her interest in challenging UK children’s sterotypes about Africa I’m sure she’ll be interested in hearing the arguments about Goble’s books.

    Debbie Reese’s site (to which you link) is essential reading indeed for anyone interested in the representation of American Indians in children’s literature. It’s thanks to her I discovered The Birchbark House as parallel reading to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

    A Broken Flute is new to me, but I shall certainly look it up and hope it’s available through the library system here in the UK.

  8. Atinuke

    Thank you, Jody, for your post. I have spent some happy hours learning (from blog to blog to blog)that Native American cultures are far from gone. Apologies for any offense I might have caused – or to anyone that I might have misled through my original post.

  9. Atinuke | El Hada Viajante y Cia

    […] by the book“. “Playing by the book” también ha publicado una lista de 8 libros que han sido importantes en su vida, muchos de ellos infantiles. Si prefieres los vídeos a leer… aquí tienes otra entrevista en […]

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