Anya is a young Russian girl who favors her left hand from an early age. She loves to create; she draws and paints, but she’s under constant scrutiny over her left-handedness. Even her neighbors correct her, saying things like, “The right hand is the right hand!” Under social and school pressure, Anya begins using her right hand to write, but she just can’t create with that hand. Her creativity, her art, flows from her left hand. Anya discovers a secret world of left-handed creators, including Leonardo DaVinci and Michaelangelo; she imagines herself part of their secret society, wearing masks to hide their identities as they flout conformity and use that sinister hand. When Anya’s family moves to America, though, she discovers that there is no stigma about which hand to use. She uses her left hand in public, and no one even notices! Her teacher doesn’t correct her! Anya is, at last, free to create.
Anya’s Secret Society uses beautiful language to communicate the desire to create art while lamenting the crushing conformity that threatens to squelch it. Anya draws, left-handed, in secret, and the text reveals that “…the right hand could not draw. Only the left hand could draw”, and “The right hand took care of the world outside Anya. The left hand took care of the world inside Anya”.
With mixed media artwork that’s reminiscent of Pamela Zagarenski, Anya’s Secret Society has bold, bright colors mixed with earth tones to illustrate Anya’s bright spirit; her “secret society” meetings take on a clandestine, almost candelit look. An author’s note discusses the author/illustrator’s own childhood, growing up left-handed in Russia. Anya’s Secret Society is good for picture book collections and carries a nice message of empowerment.