Title: Anna’s Heaven
Author: Stian Hole
Illustrator: Stian Hole
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014
Audience: Ages 7 – 10, particularly those dealing with loss of parent.
Summary: “And Anna,” Dad says, “Hurry up now or we’ll be late.” Anna notices that her father is restless. Anna knows that her dad gets restless when he is not looking forward to something. “Hurry up, Anna,” her father says. At that moment they hear the church bells chime from across the fjord. For Anna and her dad this is a painful day, everything aches and someone seems to be sending nails down from the sky. Anna takes her dad on a journey to her Heaven.
Literary elements at with in the story: This is a beautifully artistic work of bibliotherapy that never mentions death or dying as it treats the loss of a parent and spouse in a tender manner that captures the imagination of the reader. The author/illustrator tackles the mystery of life and death respectfully through the eyes of a child who questions the majesty of God while at the same time imagines what her mother might be doing in heaven.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability: Anna’s journey with her father begins and ends in an inlet community. The illustrations show their journey through Anna’s Heaven as they encounter those who have transitioned from this life to the next in various states. Lying as if in a coffin and seated around the dining table, they are the old postman who Mom said, “read people’s letters,” and others from all socio-economic levels, ethnicities, and genders. Even Elvis makes an appearance. The illustrations are as much a part of the story as the words on the pages.
Scripture Connections: Psalm 56:8, Hebrews 4:13a
Theological conversation partners: The overall tone of Anna’s Heaven is one of grappling with the mystery of death and the love of God in the midst of the painful loss of a mother and wife. Anna seems to be handling her grief while at the same time helping her dad cope with his. As Anna and her dad cope with their grief, her dad suggests that God hang a mailbox for people to send questions and complaints. This request bears witness to cry of David in Psalm 56:8; in sleepless tearful nights the cry is for God to make a record of our misery and pain, to write our personal heartaches in His book. In the end, there is comfort in knowing that nothing in all creation is hidden from God. The story is a reminder of the love of God and the hope for heaven.
Faith Talk Questions:
- This book takes us on a journey through Anna’s Heaven. How would you describe Anna’s heaven? How would you describe heaven?
- Why do you think it was important to Anna to take her dad on such a journey?
- Anna goes from having all the time in the world at the beginning of the book to hurrying her dad along in the end. What changed for Anna?
- Anna’s dad goes from hurrying Anna along at the beginning of the book to basking on the swing at end. What changed for Anna’s dad?
- Anna’s dad says that God should hang a mailbox for people to send questions and complaints. If such a mailbox existed, what questions or complaints would you send God?
We welcome Union Presbyterian Seminary student Elizabeth Moyer as a book reviewer today. For the next several months, reviews will be posted by students who took the the Using Children’s and Adolescent Literature in the Church class on our Charlotte campus in the fall of 2014. Taught by Dr. Pamela Mitchell-Legg, this class was the impetus for Storypath more than five years ago.
Anna’s Heaven by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.