In 1941, Jacqueline Van Maarsen was a typical 12-year-old girl, half-Jewish and half-French, growing up in Amsterdam. Her parents were well off, and she and her sister, Christiane, were accustomed to a privileged life in a luxurious home with a maid, beautiful clothes and holidays at the beach. They attended the esteemed Montessori School, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands, the anti-Jewish Laws were established and life changed drastically for Jacqueline. Mr. Van Maarsen’s business of antiquarian books and prints suffered, and the family was forced to move to a less affluent area. Also, even though the family had never been religious, the girls were required to attend the Jewish Lyceum. Fortunately, on the first day of school, Jacqueline met an outgoing, energetic girl named Anne Frank who insisted that her new classmate come home with her to meet her family. The two became inseparable and Jacqueline, usually shy, felt as though she had finally found her soul mate, for “Anne made everything fun!”
This heartfelt story traces the friendship of Anne and Jacqueline until Anne’s family was forced to go into hiding. Told in Jacqueline’s voice, it recalls many of the adventures the best friends shared; especially touching is Anne’s 13th birthday where she receives her diary and writes about Jacqueline as “Jopie.” As Jacqueline wonders about Anne, she also fears for her own safety and watches as friends and relatives “disappear” or are deported. She also comments about her mother’s determination to save her and her sister by visiting the Gestapo headquarters and insisting her children were Catholic. Only after the war did Jacqueline find out the truth about Anne’s harsh experiences. Otto Frank, the only surviving family member, came to visit Jacqueline with the sad news and also to share his dream of publishing Anne’s diary. Since Jacqueline wanted to move on with life after the war, she was reluctant to read Anne’s innermost thoughts. When she finally had the courage to read the diary, instead of feeling empty and forlorn, Jacqueline felt that it was an affirmation of life and a strong message against discrimination that needed to be heard. As Anne’s fame grew, Jacqueline felt very strongly about sharing her part of the story and has become a Holocaust lecturer and writer. With black-and-white photographs, a timeline, and a recommended book list, this is an excellent title for school-age children studying the Holocaust. Jacqueline’s voice rings loud and true and is an acclamation of the courage of two young girls, one a survivor and one a legend. For ages 10 – 16.