Anya's Secret Society-illustrated and written by Yevgenia Nayberg
Published on August 01, 2023
Anya’s Secret Society-written and illustrated by Yegenia Nayberg
Reviewed by Elizabeth DeVincenzo
Anya is born in Russia and is left-handed. From a very young age, Anya did everything with her left hand like rolling a ball, drawing, and writing. Being left-handed in Russia was frowned upon and not accepted. Anya was judged by her neighbors and once she started school, her teacher made her use her right hand to write. “You have to write like everyone else”, she said. At first, Anya struggled writing with her right hand, but as time passed, she learned to write, cut with scissors, and hold a spoon with her right hand. However, only her left hand could draw and Anya loved to draw. In addition to drawing, Anya loved to read and she read about all the famous artists that were left-handed like her; da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Michaelangelo who used his left and right hand. Anya imagined she was in a secret society with these famous left-handed artists, drawing, talking, and laughing. When Anya’s parents told her, they were moving to America, she was excited, but also scared. She packed all her drawings and her books. She didn’t want to forget her secret society or her home.
When Anya and her family moved to NYC, she started school and saw a left-handed desk, left-handed scissors, and a left-handed guitar. Anya decided to write with her left hand and much to her surprise, her teacher didn’t notice. None of her neighbors in her apartment said anything when they saw Anya drawing with her left-hand. Anya saw art everywhere in NYC and also many artists using their left hand to draw, just like her secret society. Her secret society was no longer a secret. This picture book is based on the author’s life growing up in the Soviet Union as a left-handed person who was forced to conform and use her right hand like everyone in Russia. Nayberg’s illustrations rendered in acrylic and digital collage are reminiscent of French-Russian artist Chagall. Left-handed children will appreciate and relate to this story, since there are not many picture books featuring left-handed children as the main character. An ideal choice to read on International Left-Hander’s Day on August 13th.
Target age group: Ages 4-8
“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”- Kirkus Reviews- February 2019