A Friend Called Anne

Jacque­line Van Maarsen; Car­ol Ann Lee
  • Review
By – August 3, 2012

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.

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

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