Mister God, this is Anna shares a little of the personality and thoughts of a young girl. Not a typical inspirational story, it is quite unconventional in many ways; the type of book with which I deliberately take my time. Reading her story rekindled that natural curiosity I had once as a child.
The story is based upon the developing friendship between Anna and “Fynn” (pseudonym of author Sydney Hopkins). Fynn is a teenager who finds Anna wandering the streets of pre-war London (not uncommon in those days) and takes her to his family where she lives until her premature death at the age of seven. As they meet colourful local characters, explore science, mathematics and Anna’s ideas about God, Anna and Fynn develop a special bond. Although she died so early in her life, this is anything but a depressing or morbid story. On the contrary, it is lively and inspiring. Reading it one feels, like Anna, that there are just not enough hours in the day to explore the many wonders of this world.
I felt I was entering into a world a bit like Alice in Wonderland as I followed the kaleidoscope of Anna’s thoughts. Anna is a typical young child in that she “says it as it is.” Many may think her a child prodigy, a precocious genius. Every child has that extraordinary curiosity and burning desire to learn, but what is unusual about Anna is her ability to recognise patterns where others cannot and to delve deeply into philosophical, scientific and theological ideas. Her thoughts on a variety of topics have a simple clarity. She turns a variety of concepts upside down and looks at them with a simple yet profound child’s eye. Adults may struggle to understand the simplicity of her thoughts. The reader is helped by Fynn’s discussions which take us through the topics slowly and clearly. Fynn eventually learns as much from Anna’s ability to turn a subject on its head as Anna does from Fynn’s more adult, conventional explanations of the world. Anna also shows that science and theology do not have to be mutually exclusive.
When reading her story, the words simplicity and beauty spring to mind. Whatever your views of Anna after reading this book, one thing is for sure – it will inspire you to have a renewed curiosity about the world and an excitement for life, and to appreciate and laugh at yourself a bit, without bitterness.
Many may be sceptical about the depth of Anna’s thoughts about God and religion. However, she is never dogmatic or intrusive. Many non-religious and even atheists have read the book and enjoyed it. There are concepts of what it means to be a neighbour, what faith is, and the timeless, mysterious quality of God. Being good is something we should do but not be so self-aware of, according to Anna. Some may frown at what may seem disrespectful thoughts about attending church, but for Anna and many children, being in a church can make them feel like dancing rather than sitting still!
The depth of her thoughts is stunning, and her short life has made a huge difference to the world. Her books have reached a worldwide audience of millions with translations of the books into more than a dozen languages. Anna’s growing knowledge of what it means to be male and female and references to sex are fairly innocent. Simple ink illustrations by Papas evoke Anna’s lively energy and boundless enthusiasm for life. The sequels are also available: Anna’s Book and Anna and the Black Knight.
A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.