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Anna’s Heaven 

Region: Scandinavia, Norway

Author: Stian Hole

Original Language: Norwegian 

Translator: Donn Bartlett

Illustrator: Stian Hole

Genre: Magic realism

Descriptors: Afterlife, coping, family, heaven, imagination, loss.  

Age: 8-10 years old


Anna’s Heaven, written by Norwegian author Stian Hole, is both whimsical and melancholic. The story follows Anna and her father after the loss of Anna’s mother. Anna’s father is in a hurry to get somewhere, though it is never specified in the story. He wears a black suit and carries flowers, so one can imagine that the two might attend the funeral for Ana’s mother. In contrast, Ana is not in any hurry and she is seen playing on a swing, wearing a yellow polka dot dress. As the two make their journey, Anna sees all the beauty around her. When her father says, “Today there’s someone in the sky sending down nails. That’s not right, is it?” Anna responds with, “No, but tomorrow there might be strawberries with honey.” This type of dialogue is constant through the story as Anna reminds her father of the wonderful things left in the world. Filled with a child’s curiosity, Anna asks her father questions that open his mind to new possibilities. Magically, the two float to heaven and imagine what the afterlife might be like. In the end, it’s Ana’s father who sits on the swing with a smile on his face. Stian Hole’s picture book explores the complex topic of loss and the afterlife. This topic could be mature for audiences younger than eight years old. In addition to the content of the story, the style of writing is also intricate. Each line is a metaphor, a simile, or symbolism and may need to be read several times before the meaning is understood. Therefore, children eight to ten years old would have a better grasp on this story and its importance. Finally, the illustrations in Hole’s book are hauntingly beautiful. Each page of the story brings the reader along for an adventure through imaginary worlds and vast meadows. Children and adults alike may find comfort in this story of loss and hope for a better tomorrow. Ana’s Heaven was originally written in Norwegian, and translated English copies of the book can be found in print.   

More About This Book

Reviewed: print book by Tien Wah Press (2014). ISBN: 9780802854414. 42 p. 


Reviewed by: Raquel Martinez 

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