Anna Was Here by Jane Kurtz is a sweet early middle grade novel that winsomely deals with the familiar themes of change, loss, and conflict. Anna Nickel is the daughter of a minister and a history professor, big sister of Isabella, and owner of Midnight H. Cat. She’s big on being prepared–in fact, she has her very own Safety Club in which she prepares for all kinds of disasters, from being sealed inside a pyramid to being attacked by a bear. Nothing, however, prepares her for moving from her home in her beloved Colorado to the Kansas prairie where she has a passel of relatives, some of which have never forgiven her grandmother for selling off her share of the family land. Anna wrestles with Big Questions, like why a trio of school girls froze to death in a snowstorm on the Kansas prairie in the 1800s; why a cousin’s father was killed in a freak lightning accident; and why her dad felt compelled to move to Kansas to get the family church over a “hump.” There’s plenty to think about in this novel, and yes, there’s plenty of talk about God and his control over the affairs of people on earth. I’d say that Anna’s perspective on these issues is pretty typical for a child her age; she doesn’t really have a way to cope with why things happen, and sometimes she’s angry with God. The adults in her life give her plenty of sympathy and understanding, but no specific answers. Her father gives her this explanation at the end of the novel: “I guess God pretty much leaves some things to us to decide and figure out. “
I enjoyed this novel and was gratified to read a story with a minister depicted in a wholly positive way–Anna’s dad is funny and loving and determined. I was also pleased to find homeschoolers–one of Anna’s cousins homeschools her daughter–depicted positively, too. Obviously, this is a novel that tackles difficult situations head-on. While there is no mention of Jesus that I recall, this novel doesn’t shy away from dealing with issues of trust in God. I did find both the writing and the pacing of the plot to be a bit uneven. Sometimes action happened so quickly that I almost lost the sequence of events. Kurtz does a great job of giving Anna a very unique voice, and this is a real strength of the story. This is a nice and gentle middle grade novel that grapples with some universal questions. (Greenwillow, 2013)
Many thanks to Provato Marketing for the opportunity to review this novel. For other stops on the Anna Was Here blog tour please check janekurtz.com.