This scary retelling of Anne Frank’s time in hiding (597 days and counting when the book opens) arrives sanitized for its targeted young age group. The sad biography focuses on Anne’s belief in healing nature to get her through the dark time, as symbolized by her attachment to the chestnut tree visible from the attic window. There is no mention of Anne’s teenage conflicts with her mother, the sexual interest in her annex mate Peter, or her personal fears for her fellow Jews. The book is packaged as a Step into Reading volume, Level 3: “Reading on Your Own, Grades 1 – 3; popular topics for children who are ready to read on their own.” Because of the hard vocabulary and nightmare-inducing subject, this book needs to be handled as a biography for children asking about Anne Frank, rather than a new Step into Reading. Once Anne’s family’s reason to hide, Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy, the Jewish issue, and the Franks’ strong identity with their own people become universalized into a paean to nature, Jewish readers are shortchanged. This accurate volume includes Anne’s diary writing, schoolwork with her sister, weekly library books and the selfless devotion of their rescuers, as well as bombs, fears and eventual discovery. The color illustrations include a layout map of their hiding place, the annex, and a modern color photograph of the house. Anne’s fate, as well as that of the chestnut tree, is nicely handled, but persecution and death are persecution and death no matter how you package it. Recommended for ages 7 – 9, only as a requested biography.
Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree
Ellen G. Cole, the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.
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