In Canada we recently celebrated Remembrance Day, when we remember all victims of war and the coming of peace after WWII. I had selected a number of books surrounding war, non-fiction and fiction, and placed them on display in all three of my elementary libraries. I found several books about Anne Frank and chose to read A Picture Book of Anne Frank by David A. Adler to a rowdy 2/3 class (ages 7-8). I was surprised when a hand shot up when I got to the second page, “Miss, what is a Nazi?”
There was a German boy in the class, so I tactfully explained that Nazis were an army that were formed in Germany and that they blamed the Jews for their problems. Immediately: “Miss, what is a Jew?” We are a Catholic school, so I explained that Judaism is a religion, and they are like big brothers to our religion.
As the story continued, the students were very curious about the illustrations of “real people” and of different symbols like the yellow stars. The page showing the soldiers breaking into the Franks’ hideaway caused the students to murmur again with concern. Finally, skipping ahead to the end, there was an image of Anne and Margot with their hair shaved off. I explained that Anne had died in the concentration camp. My seven and eight year olds were not anticipating such an ending and posed question after question.
I showed them Tales from the Annex and explained that Anne had written the stories inside. They were very impressed both by her authorship and by the fact that the story I had told them was real. One girl checked out Tales from the Annex to take home, and another took the picture book that I had read to the class.
I was moved by my students’ compassionate reaction to Anne’s story. While the story is difficult to tell, I feel it is important for young people to know the story of Anne Frank, to think more critically about injustice, to learn compassion for others from real stories about people, and to think critically about where hate can lead them.
The original diary is shelved in the mature section of the library in my K-8 (4-13 year old) school. While the story is set up in such a way to guide a reader’s reaction to injustice and war, it does not offer any such guidance for other mature parts in the story. For an adult, the section where Anne has her friend touch her breasts at a sleepover and another where Anne goes into depth describing her genitals, is necessary to show the validity of the diary and to argue for Anne’s youth and innocence. Reader discretion is up to the parent.
It is incredible how many books there are available about Anne Frank, but here are a few recommendations:
Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree, Sandy Eisenberg
A picture book that helps to explain the holocaust in a child-friendly way. Appropriate for children 7+
A Picture Book of Anne Frank, David A. Adler
Geared towards a younger audience, this rendition of the story glazes over facts and does not go into great detail about events in the story. Appropriate for mature children 7+
Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex
The first part of this chapter book is made up of Anne’s short stories; the second part is mainly her reminiscences of the past and articles she wrote. It may be difficult to appreciate this book until after reading her diary however it is appropriate for ages 8+.
Anne Frank: Young Diarist, Ruth Ashby
This chapter book provides an overview of Anne’s life and fills in some stories about her childhood. The reading level is geared to children 9+.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
This is Anne’s diary that includes more material than the diary published by her father, Otto Frank, in 1947. There is a critical edition that omits some of these parts. I find the definitive edition is appropriate for mature readers 13+.