On a day in which everything aches and spikes fall from the skies, Anna turns the world on its head. She takes her daddy on a fantastic journey all the way to the bottom of the sky where the invisible ones live. Daddy is careworn and quiet, and Anna helps both herself and her daddy through the most difficult of days.
Annas himmel is an exceptionally beautiful book about overcoming grief, succeeding in this without becoming an overly sad or sentimental tale.
Stian Hole is one of our foremost picture book artists, and Annas himmel is a work of art, both in terms of text and illustrations.
‘Stian Hole communicates the great life-changing questions with huge creative seriousness and moving poetic lightness of touch. ... These are images which one can never finish with, so multi-layered that one could read this book hundreds of times, one after another, and constantly discover new meanings... Hole combines wonder, unease and love in an utterly readable way. Always, with precisely measured amounts of humour and gravity. ... Hole brings the children along on a brave and poetic journey and takes them seriously as thoughtful, inquiring human beings. This is a curriculum for growing up. ... Let all children have a share in Hole’s universe.’
‘An exceptionally beautiful work by Stian Hole. ... One of our most frequently awarded writers of picture books and one who doesn’t worry about pleasing others. That attitude makes for good literature. An outstandingly beautiful as well as meaningful picture book. ... the visual and verbal contents of Annas himmel fuse as the sense of the words and the images are seen together.’
‘Hole’s masterly way of addressing you through his images offers comfort about the resting-place of the dead. ... readers who want to study the details will have many happy hours ahead and will also find visual references to Alice in Wonderland. Hole’s work is rich in both emotional and visual symbolism but, above all, his picture books are exciting and interesting.’
‘Awesomely beautiful … Few Norwegian creators of picture books have ever reached Sian Hole’s recognition. His books about Garmann come close to being modern classics. Now, with Annas himmel, Hole has delivered another masterpiece. ... Stian Hole has never created anything more colourful. And he has never let his imagination as free as he has here, even though the recognisable links to ordinary life constantly run through the illustrations. Also, Hole’s text has never been sparser, as he offers more and more freedom to us who look and read; he challenges the imaginative capacity of both young and old and points to new routes into the most marvellous experiences. ... Everything hangs together and is so neatly done that it is a pleasure to be one of his readers and so constantly discover new links, new possibilities of interpretation, new details.’
‘Stian Hole’s easily recognisable world of images as seen on book covers or in children’s books is often so beautiful that I gasp. The great stories about the boy called Garmann with the intensely detailed illustrations that children and adults value so highly – far beyond the borders of this country. ... When the world becomes so absurd that it feels as if someone “makes nails rain from the sky”, the child attempts to guide the adults away from the dangerous reality. ... Together, they travel floating in the air and swimming through the world of Anna’s imagination. Like Alice and the author [Lewis] Carroll in Wonderland, like Tinker Bell and Peter Pan in Neverland. Young and old will find endless discoveries and opportunities to think things over.’
‘Miraculous, wildly imaginative and fantastic … The book is rich in symbolism and strikingly lovely to look at – and amusing. ... Everything is fitted into an exquisite colour range, allowing each new page to present its own world while at the same time the unity, visual as well as narrative, is always maintained. ... For children, Annas himmel will offer an adventure to enjoy and for adults, a unique opportunity to travel with them on a journey of the imagination.'
‘Norway’s Stian Hole does it once more. He has written and illustrated a philosophical and seductive picture book for children of all ages. His new picture book strikes just that special Hole note. … Much has been written about death in books for children. But no one writes and creates picture books like Hole does. Also, about death. … Hope is there on every page. Both in words and images.’
Nordhyske Stiftstidende – Six out of six
‘Stian Hole’s breathtakingly beautiful picture book is about the mother who has died and left behind her restless daughter Anna and her father who has grown rigid with grief. The detailed illustrations are unrivalled – like Edward Hopper images with added northern light. The book is not easy-going and not recommended for readers with weak nerves, but on the other hand, is utterly visionary.’
‘Stian Hole’s lovely picture book Annas himmel shines a light into the tempting darkness of grief ... Despite the wealth of detail in the collages and the texts there is not one ounce of the accidental or superfluous in Annas himmel.’