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In 1933, the Solden family embarks on a voyage to a new world. Anna's father senses the growing threat to their freedom in Germany and decides to emigrate to Canada. Already facing learning difficulties in her mother tongue, Anna panics at the idea of having to speak English. Her relationship with her brothers and sisters is conflicted: they are mean and snooty towards her, and give her the nickname "Anna the Oaf" because of her habit of tripping over things.
Once in Canada, the cause of her apparent clumsiness is discovered and she is enrolled in a special class. Everything changes and Anna's life begins anew. She thrives with this new attention; the sympathy of her teacher and classmates helps soothe her psychological wounds. Anna surmounts several major obstacles, including being able to read aloud in front of the whole class without any of the usual jeering. Her self-confidence soars, and her positive attitude earns her the admiration of all.
Filled with a new enthusiasm, Anna is determined that her first Christmas outside Germany will be a special one. She searches out unusual and special gifts for the members of her family -- gifts that will alter her relationship with all of them forever.