Listen for the Singing (1977) revisits the Solden family that Little introduced in From Anna. Where the first novel described the family’s initial immigration to Canada in order to escape the increasingly powerful Nazis at home in Germany, the second narrates Anna Solden’s experiences during the first year of World War II. In addition to the stress of beginning high school and her continuing struggle with a visual impairment, Anna faces a number of problems related to the war, including suspicion and mistreatment due to her German origin. Throughout the novel, however, Little insists on the value of Anna’s challenges in making her sensitive to the emotional needs of those around her. John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” provides a central metaphor for the text, emphasising the importance of following McCrae’s example in listening for the singing of the larks—that is, of watching for evidence of hope amidst the apparent hopelessness of war.
Little’s novel is considerably sweeter than most recent teen fiction, and for that reason may not appeal to readers whose experience or preferences tend more toward the modern. Even in the midst of war, Anna’s concerns are mostly those of a young and relatively unsophisticated teen: fitting in at school, a first crush, and occasionally troublesome family relationships. That said, the insight that Little offers into Canada’s home front experience and the universality and depth to be found in Anna’s growth through the course of the novel reward readers willing to give Listen for the Singing a chance.
Read a review for Listen for the Singing here.
Cover image taken of my own copy of the book. Apologies for the poor photography.