Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Anna was here

Anna was here

Jane Kurtz
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 2013   ISBN: 978-0060564933

It is early April and Anna is back at home after school and she is trying to decide if she should work on her Safety Notebook or plan her birthday party. In the end she decides to write some notes in her Safety Notebook. The previous summer Colorado was hit by a series of terrifying wildfires, and in response Anna and her babysitter, Jericho, created the Safety Club, a group of kids who learn about how to deal with wildfires, tornadoes,and similar events. In the Safety Notebook Anna writes down what a person should do when such emergency situations arise. She never imagines that she should also write down a list of the things that a person should do if she has to move away from her home. Later that day Anna finds out that she should have created just such a list. Her father announces that they are moving from Colorado to Kansas. The church in the town where her father grew up is having problems, and he feels that he can help the congregation get over the “hump” that has been troubling them. The move is temporary, but Anna is not happy about it. Not one little bit.

When they get to Oakwood, Anna is not impressed. Her new bedroom is pink, and it is so pink that Anna refuses to sleep in it at night. Even worse, Anna's parents expect her to go to the last few weeks of school, which she thinks is a terrible idea. Then a relation of hers (she is related in some way to most of the people in the town), a boy called Simon, throws a water balloon at her. Anna didn’t do a single thing to provoke such an attack and it upsets her a great deal.

To make matters worse, Anna’s father is not getting much of a warm reception from the congregation that he is trying to help. His words seem to have no effect on the people gathered before him on Sunday, and Anna cannot understand what is going on. Her father becomes a grim, serious man who does not laugh the way he used to.

Anna is really pushed to the limit when her grandfather back in Colorado falls ill. Her mother and little sister fly back to Colorado, but Anna is told that she has to stay with her father. Frustrated and feeling very lost and alone, Anna runs away from school. When it becomes clear that Anna and her father are not getting along, she goes to live on her aunt Caroline’s farm for a while. Perhaps there she will find something about Kansas that she likes. Perhaps there she will come to terms with the changes that are taking over her life.

Change can be hard for adults to come to terms with, but for kids it can be confusing and very frustrating. Often they don’t know why the change is happening, and they are not told how to deal with the change. In this sensitively written book the author explores one girl’s experiences when she leaves the home she loves so that her father can do something he believes in. The tale has bittersweet moments, which are balanced by touches of humor that give the narrative depth and an authentic feel.