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Chronicles the sometimes funny, sometimes sad experiences of eight-year-old Anna with her friends and family during a year in Baltimore just before World War I.
"powerful depiction of the childhood emotions that accompany the inevitable process of growing up...timeless... young readers should find Anna's experiences meaningful." Kirkus Reviews
Anna is sitting on the sofa reading. It's a rainy September day. Drops of water run down the front window, blurring the narrow brick row houses across the street. Leaves drift from the trees. The clock on the mantel chimes eleven. At the same moment, a horse clip-clops past, hauling a wagon.
Without looking up from her book, Anna knows it's Mr. Hausmann, the grocer, on his way to his shop at the bottom of the hill. He finishes his deliveries every Saturday morning at exactly the same time. Father says he could set all the clocks in the house by Mr. Hausmann.
Tired of sitting still, Anna slides quietly off the sofa and tiptoes down the hall to the kitchen door. Mother's sister, Anna's aunt May, has come over from her house next door. She and Mother are sitting at the table, drinking coffee and gossiping about their other sisters. Fritzi, Aunt May's big white bulldog, is asleep at Aunt May's feet.
Anna stands in the doorway listening. Mother has five sisters and three brothers. It seems to Anna that someone in the family is always mad at someone else. This morning the two sisters are cross with Aunt Amelia. Anna isn't fond of Aunt Amelia, so she lingers, hoping to hear something interesting.
"Did you hear what Amelia had the nerve to tell Margaret?" Mother asks Aunt May. "She said her tablecloth wasn't starched properly!"
This doesn't surprise Anna. Once she saw Aunt Amelia run her finger across their dining-room table to check for dust. As if Mother would leave a speck of dirt anywhere! Why, she even sweeps the sidewalk in front of the house every morning. With Mother around,dust has no chance.
Aunt May makes a loud harrumph. "Amelia should talk. The last time I called on her, I counted three cobwebs in the corners. Poor Friedrich. I can't believe she's a good wife to him."
Mother nods in agreement and leans closer to Aunt May. "What do you think of Julianna's new beau? Have you met him yet?"
Aunt May wrinkles her nose. "I don't--"
Just then, Anna has the misfortune to sneeze.
Mother and Aunt May both turn and stare at Anna. Until now, they hadn't noticed her standing in the doorway.
Mother looks cross. "Fie, Anna. Where are your manners? It's rude to eavesdrop."
Aunt May smiles. "My little sweet potato has sprouted ears as well as eyes," she says, giving Anna a hug. Fritzi lifts his head and wags his tail. Like Aunt May, he's glad to see Anna.
Mother doesn't smile. She picks up the coffeepot and holds it over Aunt May's cup. "Möchtest du mehr Kaffee, May?"
Aunt May winks at Mother and pats Anna's fanny. "Ja bitte, Lizzie."
Anna pulls away from her aunt and scowls. Mother's family is German. When they don't want Anna to understand what they're saying, they speak in German. No one will teach Anna to speak it. It's the language of secrets.
"Was denkst du von Julianna's neuem Freund?" Mother asks.
Aunt May makes a face. "Ich mag ihn nicht."
Anna tugs at Mother's sleeve. "Speak English," she begs.
Mother shakes her head. "Go and play, Anna. What we say is not for you to hear.""It's talk for grown-ups, very boring." Aunt May gives Anna another pat. "Do as Mother says and run along, mein kleiner Zuckerwürfel."
Anna flounces to the door. When she's sure neither her mother nor her aunt is looking at her, she sticks out her tongue. She wants to be called my little sugar lump, not mein kleiner Zuckerwürfel.
Fritzi starts to follow Anna, but Aunt May calls him back. Mother doesn't allow Fritzi to leave the kitchen; she's afraid he'll jump on the furniture the way he does at home. Although Mother has never said it to Aunt May's face, she doesn't like Fritzi. She thinks he's ugly and smelly and spoiled rotten.
Alone in the parlor, Anna finds a book written in German. She sits in Father's big chair and opens the book. Since no one else will do it, Anna will teach herself German. She stares at the long words till her head aches. She cannot understand any of them. Some of the letters look strange. Others have funny marks over them.
Anna groans and closes the book. German children must be smarter than American children, she thinks, or they'd never learn to talk or read.
When Father comes home from his job at the newspaper, he finds Anna asleep in his chair, Mother's German book in her lap.
Anna opens her eyes and gives Father a hug and a kiss. Father picks up Mother's book and glances at the pages. "I didn't know you could read German," he says.Anna sighs. "That's just the trouble, Father. I can't! I was trying to teach myself, but it's too hard. Why can't German be as easy as English? Why do all the words have to be so long and fancified?"
Father smiles. "I imagine that's exactly what German children say about English."
Anna loves Father too much to argue but she's certain he's wrong. Anyone can see English is much easier than German.
Father strokes Anna's long brown hair. "Won't Mother help you?"
Anna shakes her head. "All Mother has taught me is ‘Gesundheit,' which you say when someone sneezes, and ‘Auf Wiedersehen,' which means ‘good-bye.' I also know ‘bitte,' which means ‘please,' and ‘danke,' which means ‘thank you.'"
"Those are all good words," Father says. "Why do you want to know more?"Anna picks up her doll and smoothes its wrinkled dress. "When Aunt May visits, she and Mother talk in German to keep me from learning their secrets...Anna All Year Round. Copyright © by Mary Hahn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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