Monday, April 18, 2011

Book Review: From Anna by Jean Little

Book: From Anna
Author: Jean Little
Published: 1972

The youngest in her family, Anna is also the clumsiest and ugliest. She sees no reason to hope that things will be different in Canada than they were in Germany as they flee the Nazis. But Canada brings her to Dr. Schumacher, who realizes something nobody ever noticed before and changes her life for the better.

Why do I love ferocious little girls so much? Mary Lennox of The Secret Garden was one of the first, but my reading life has always focused with particular affection on the stubborn, angular, not-all-that-charming child who could probably navigate the world a little better if she was sweet and compliant, but seems constitutionally unable to be so.

Anna’s ferocity is easy to understand. Because of her visual difficulties, nothing has ever been easy for her to learn. She's not exactly graceful, either, simply because she can't see the thing she's about to fall over. It also doesn't help that she's not a sweet-faced blond angel like her siblings. Joan Sandin's illustrations really bring this out. Being called stupid, clumsy, and ugly all her life has understandably created a shell to rival that of a Galapagos tortoise.

Bless Jean Little for not immediately making her life sunshine and puppies, bestowing the love and approval of her family upon her when she gets glasses. While things are improving, her family still dismisses her because it’s so entrenched in her mind that this is silly, clumsy little Anna, and it takes a strong demonstration of her intelligence and capability to change their minds.

If you’re looking for a fleeing-from-the-Nazis story, this really isn’t it. Except for discussion of a changing Germany in the beginning as they prepare to leave their country, and an ongoing stubbornness over language in the remainder of the book, this might as well be the story of any family forced to relocate. From Anna is the story of a fiercely guarded girl finally coming into her own and forcing her family to recognize her as such.

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