A REWARDING, INFORMATIVE AND PLEASUREABLE READ. This one is certainly a keeper and will be around for quite some time.
Sep 3, 2009
So far, and I stress so far, this YA book has gleaned three national awards. It was Top Award-Winner in the "Fiction & Literature: Young Adult Fiction" category. The work was a Silver Medal Winner, 2008 - Moonbeam Children's Books Award and First Place Winner in the "Teen Fiction" category from Reader Views Literary Awards. To be honest, it deserved each of these and so very much more. This is one of the better YA books I have had the pleasure of reading over the past five years.
As you will note, the plot of this story has pretty well been covered by some marvelously written reviews here so I will not linger on that aspect of this work overly long. Anna, a young girl, age 14 during the 1840s is displaced after a disastrous flood wipes out most of her town and the dreaded disease typhus takes many members of her community...indeed Anna herself barely recovers from this disease that took to many in those days. Her father, a successful business man is financially destroyed and must seek to rebuild his life in Boston. There being nowhere else to place Anna, he turns her over to a Shaker Community for care and education until he can get his life together and send for her. Anna's life adventure starts here as does this work by Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin.
There are aspects of this book that truly shine and should be noted. The setting and time frame the story takes place was during an extremely tumultuous period of our history. As a background for the story we have the dubious and questionable war with Mexico; which was more or less a training session for the horrific Civil War to come. The Shakers, who were quite opposed to the practice of slavery highlight one of the darkest periods of our young nation. We have our young heroine learning hard lessons in life, not the least being that not all people are good, not all people are what they seem and not all that glitters is gold. These are hard lessons, but lessons the youth of today still face.
Probably of the greatest fascination to me personally is the wonderful research that went into the writing of this work. I am not by any stretch of the term an "expert" in this area, but my wife is, and I have learned much through sheer osmosis over the years. While the Shaker Community featured here is fictional, it is a composite of a number of these communities and the authors have gone to great lengths to be as accurate in the portrayal of Shaker life, philosophy, religious beliefs, ceremonies, ethics and general life style. As one reviewer has pointed out, there are only three members of this sect left today, and it is an interesting part of our history; a part that our youth should be aware of. Coleman and Perrin have certainly done their research and done it well, leaving few stones unturned.
The authors have skillfully woven the presence of Henry David Thoreau into the story. Thoreau was quite fascinated and indeed sympathetic to the Shaker way of life and in reading his writings and knowing a bit of the Shaker way of life, one can readily see why. H.D.T. is one of my favorites so even though we have a fictional account of his involvement; it was never the less gratifying. Again, the authors have done a very nice job is representing and portraying this unique writer and American literary legend.
Also of note, if you read this work carefully, you will find that the hopes, dreams, attitudes and problems facing the young of that day, are not all that much different than we find today...yes, the circumstances are a bit different and the trappings are certainly not the same, but the basic challenges are the same. Children at this age change so quickly and mature so fast that you can almost see the changes happen month by month. Attitudes of today are quickly replaced by attitudes six months down the road as the maturation process takes place. The authors have been quite skillful in portraying these phenomena through Anna.
Now we have the question....is this a girl's book? I can remember years ago that one of the most popular books in our school and town library, for both boys and girls was Dorothy Gilman's wonderful work Girl in Buckskin. This work, Anna's Life is of the same ilk, and I see no problem what so ever in young boys enjoying this one as much as young girls. As a matter of fact, this is one of those novels that while targeted for the YA market, is just as interesting and just as valid for readers of all ages. Hey, I am an old guy and I enjoyed ever word of it. Good writing is good writing and a well told story is a well told story and there is no getting around it.
Now this is not a religious book although that aspect is an important part of the story...hey, we are talking Shakers here; one cannot be separated from the other. As one reviewer has pointed out, most of the typical teen problems of today are addressed in this work and we find that after all this time things are really not all that different. The young reader here will be able to relate to some of the trials and tribulations in this work as well as receiving a wonderful history lesson. The book moves quite quickly and I doubt if there will be much reading boredom involved with this one.
This work would be an ideal read for a class project and certainly belongs in every public and school library, as well in the personal collection of any young (or old for that matter) reader.
I am quite enthusiastic about this work. It is very, very well written, informative, entertaining and a pure joy to read. I do recommend this one highly.
It's the 1840's and 14 year old Anna Coburn has had her world turned upside down. After typhoid kills many and weakens Anna, and a flood ruins her town and her father's business, Anna is sent to live with the Shakers while her father tries to make them a new life in Boston. Anna isn't used to the beliefs and rules of the serious Shaker community and she finds herself longing to be with her father and the life she once knew and had. But when that day finally … more
As an adult writer who dabbles in on-line reviews, I am often told that I should be paid for my work. Now, I am certainly not arguing this point. I can think of nothing better than to be graciously paid for the achievement of putting thoughts through pen to paper. Writing enables one for all time to capture an elicited emotion like an elixir in the sentimental little bottle that the unnamed narrator in Du Maurier's Rebecca refers to that once uncorked would allow one to conjure and relive a favorite … more
is a historical novel aimed at the young teen audience, but there's plenty here to make an adult smile too. Young Anna Coburn's life is turned upside down in 1845 when floods destroy her father's store and bring typhoid to her town. Needing to focus on rebuilding their future, he places Anna in a Shaker community where she finds life restrictive and longs for the day when he'll take her away again. Authors Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin paint a rich picture of this strange and … more
This young adult novel is set in the 1840s, and provides a valuable historical lesson into the daily life of a Shaker community of that time. After a devastating flood destroys her father's business and wreaks havoc in her hometown, fourteen year old Anna is sent to live in a Shaker community until he gets back on his feet. Time passes slowly, and Anna has some difficulty adjusting to the lifestyle, but thanks to a wonderful teacher, she is introduced to poetry and further … more
Retirement does not suit me and I now substitute teach in our local schools system. I spent twenty years in the military, twenty years in health care as a consultant and have taught in various colleges … more
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The United States of America in the late 1840s--a nation torn by the crime of slavery and a war of conquest in Mexico. Fourteen-year-old Anna Coburn doesn't want to grapple with such terrible issues. Just growing up seems awful enough. Forced from her home and away from her beloved father, Anna is sent to live among the stern people called Shakers. Their strange ways and strict lifestyle are both appealing and difficult for the bright, headstrong Anna. When reunited with her father, Anna is then plunged into upper-class Boston life, where she faces a troubling mystery, new responsibilities, and events that will affect not just herself and her loved ones, but a country about to come apart at the seams. With a cast that includes Henry David Thoreau, a perceptive Shaker schoolmistress, and a murderous false friend, Anna's World is a powerful coming of age story, widely praised for its vivid characters, gripping plot, and moral stature.