When I was in elementary school, one of my cousins told me her teacher rapped her knuckles with a ruler if she wrote with her left hand. (She attended a Catholic school many years ago.) So she learned to write with her right hand at school, but switched to her left to do her homework. Today’s perfect picture book selection revisits the plight of the left-handed child through Anya, an artistic little girl living in Russia.
I love how the first spread starts on the copyright/dedication page:
Anya was born in Russia, in the middle of winter.
In the summer, Anya’s mother takes her to the park.
Where she rolls a ball over and over again with her left hand.
A blue-haired lady on a bench frowned.
“Your child is left-handed,” she said.
The lady shook her head at Anya. In Russia,
doing the right thing meant being like everyone
else. And everyone else was right-handed.
And then Anya discovers a passion for drawing—using her left hand. Her neighbors disapprove. Her teacher disapproves. And over time, she learns to use her right hand. It becomes “a friend,” but it cannot learn to draw.
I love the explanation: Her right hand took care of “the world around Anya” while her left hand “took care of the word inside Anya.”
So she imagines her own secret society, one where famous left-handed artists meet and draw all night.
Until…..she and her parents move to America. Scary at first.
But the amazing part? She finds left-handed scissors, desks, and even a guitar. Better yet, when Anya dares to write with her left hand….
Her teacher didn’t even notice.
In fact, no one notices. And when Anya sees other artists using their left hands Anya realizes her secret society “was no longer a secret.”
Acrylics and digital collage in a mix of muted and vibrant colors create a surreal, luminous atmosphere that is often quite humorous.
Nayberg provides an author’s note, explaining the autobiographical nature of this story and how as a child she wanted to be like everyone else, but more than anything she wanted to be an artist. Clearly, she has succeeded.
Try to write or draw with your non-dominant hand. Then write or draw with your dominant hand. How different does this feel?
Make secret society masks. What will the subject of your secret society be?
Title: Anya’s Secret Society
Author/Illustrator: Yevgenia Nayberg
Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2019
Ages: Pre-K – 3rd grade
Themes: hand dominance, superstition, Russia
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.