Way back in the day - I was an exchange student in rural Austria. For a year my host family let me live in their multi-generational and ancestral home (built in 1698!) on their farm of cows, pigs, chickens, wheat, hay and potatoes. I LOVED every minute of it. I cannot imagine who I am today without that experience.
While there - I read the only book in the house written in English - "Mister God, This Is Anna" - an endearing little story tenderly written decades after the events therein - describing a little London homeless, not quite 5 years old girl named Anna. Her parents were alcoholics and essentially absent when not abusively present. Her tragic circumstances had forced her to unbelievable heights of precociousness and insight. One dark night - Anna stepped out and intentionally put herself in "Fynn's" path. Fynn - was her hand-picked guardian was a former athlete - huge and muscular - but getting on with a tragic back injury. Fynn is also the name of an ancient celtic god - known for being huge. Fynn took Anna in - cared for her bruised little body - and began to care for her soul as best as he knew how (Fynn was at the time considering the priesthood but "felt he wasn't sure enough") The man who wrote the book under the nom de plum of Fynn and lived his life by that among other nick-names revealed himself late in life to be none other than Sydney George Hopkins. Hopkins - a well educated man, better off than many of his peers - brought Anna into his household around November of 1935. It was said that Hopkins - or Fynn as he liked to be called was a "cockney Samson" and that you "could not like him, you could only love him."
An unusual friendship sprang up between Fynn and Anna - and Fynn found Anna to be a truly interesting child - a practical prodigy when it came to thinking about God and humanity. She was known to make comparisons between what she thought of "Mister God" as she consistently called God - and how the people at "cherch" thought about God. Her observations ranged from amusing to piercing. It was hard for my teenaged mind to grasp that this child was real - not a literary figure. Apparently this was a common reaction to the book. But there is a treasure trove of information that came out long after the book - about the real man, Hopkins, including remembrances not only of him - but of Anna too - and it seems to have all been real.
Fynn refers to Anna in the book as "A bomb with legs on" - due to her precocious capacity to drop bomb-shell ideas on those expecting her to think and speak like any other child. Anna's generosity of spirit and willingness to wholly trust Fynn however - won her a special place in his heart - so much so that it took him decades to write the book. That difficulty was owed in large part to the fact that Anna died as a child - in a tragic accident - and her death was nearly Hopkins' undoing. Yet - the very loss that shook him - was also the substance of the story that became a sudden hit - gaining printing all over Europe from the late 70's through the 80's. So much so that I learned the book had come into the house as required middle-school English reading for the daughters of the family I lived with in Austria. You can read quite a bit more information about Sydney George Hopkins at this UK fan-page.
Regarding the authenticity of the book - here's a quote from the publisher - which you can read for yourself here along with further information about the book.
I have been asked, “Is the book genuine?” My reply is that I won’t claim every word is verbatim. But the substance, mood and atmosphere are authentic. In all my publishing experience of over fifty years I have never handled such an amazing story.
Chairman, Collins Publishers, London
I can easily imagine this little book - packing a whollop of a story for unsuspecting readers will stay around - not just because the characters are as wonderful as the story itself - but because especially in an age when so many discussions of God and faith so rapidly descend into dogma and territorial-ism - both Fynn and Anna's simple delight in God - their unique relationships to Him - and the utterly gripping observations they had about God - themselves, each other and the world are among the stickier words ever put to printed page. Mister God, This is Anna was the first of 3 books total by Fynn about Anna - though the first remained the best known. Mister God, This is Anna is also - most likely - available through your local library system. It will be well worth your time and show you a world you hadn't quite seen before.