Anna's World is an entertaining young adult novel about a fourteen year-old girl named Anna Coburn. Still weak from recovering from the typhoid fever that swept through her village, Anna is sent to live with the Shakers while her father heads off to Boston to rebuild his business. No one is left in their small town of Martindale, due to the typhoid and the flood, and Father wants her to make a full recovery while he is busy working. He also appreciates the fine education offered by the Shakers.
Anna is not too keen on living with the Shakers as she tries to learn their unique ways. She is trying to get used to the idea of God being both Mother and Father. At the tender age of fourteen, she is already considered to be an adult in the Shaker community, which means playing and skipping is not an option. She is used to having conversations with adults, discussing politics and the like, but the Shakers do not engage in such talk.
Anna's favorite person becomes Sister Zenobia, the schoolmistress who wasn't always a Shaker. Sister Zenobia is highly accomplished, able to fluently read and write in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, German, and Italian. She is a painter, composer, and pianist. And she introduces Anna and the other children to a brilliant man named Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau's wisdom haunts Anna over the next few years as she grows up and becomes better acquainted with the world.
Anna also gets pulled into secretive deeds with another Shaker girl named Sally, leading her to bond with the shopkeeper Brother Seth. Only, Brother Seth is not as pious and wonderful has he appears, causing Anna some serious problems.
Anna's feelings about the Shakers are put to the test when she is finally able to rejoin her father in Boston, joining the upper-class society. Will she decide to stay with her family, or will she go back to the Shaker ways she once shunned?
Anna's World is very informative, as it combines Shaker traditions from the time to paint a relatively accurate view of their lifestyle. It is thought-provoking, bringing up political situations of the time that can still be applicable today. Teachers, even through high school, can use this novel to elicit conversation in English classes, history classes, philosophy classes, and religion classes. Families can read this book together to provide a springboard for conversation about personal safety, family views on religion, philosophy, and politics, and even the future dreams of the children.
Coleman and Perrin write in a manner that is easy to read, for both adults and children. The voice of a fourteen year-old girl really comes out through the narrative, making Anna easy to relate ti. The awards this book has won are well deserved.
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Andrea Coventry is a reviewer for Bookpleasures.com