Anne Frank’s Chest­nut Tree

Jane Kohuth; Eliz­a­beth Sayles, illus.
  • Review
By – October 31, 2013

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.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired 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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