Anya's Secret Society
Yevgenia Nayberg, author and illustrator
Yevgenia Nayberg is a children's book illustrator and set and costume designer for stage and film. Her books include The Wren and the Sparrow and Drop by Drop: The Story of Rabbi Akiva (both Kar-Ben Publishing). Yevgenia lives in New York City.
- Wisconsin State Reading Association 2020 Recommended List
- Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection Award
Lefties get short shrift in Russia, so Anya forms an imaginary secret society for lefty artists. As Nayberg explains in this book's postscript, a tradition of conformity in Russia has created a taboo against left-handedness. Right is right and correct, and left is not. So Anya, a lefty, is forced to learn to write and do everyday tasks with her right hand, reserving her left hand for her artwork, which she does when she is alone. Surrounded on the page with Nayberg's antique-looking, movement-filled illustrations, Anya learns that some extremely famous artists—Leonardo, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo—were left-handed. With their spirits, she forms a "secret lefty society" that meets at night to "talk, laugh, and draw. And they would draw with their left hand." Then Anya moves to the United States, where left-handedness is not frowned upon, and Anya's secret society no longer needs to be secret. The rather broad characterization of the United States as a nonconformist's paradise can be taken with a grain of autobiographical salt, for this is Nayberg's experience as a young girl. Otherwise, it is the story of coping with any society's rigid norms and finding avenues for self-expression, and Anya's imagination is a bright vehicle for just such a ride. Anya's secret society is so jovial and bighearted, you wish it upon all oppressed lefties.
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Page count: 32
10 x 10