written by Alexandra Zapruder
2013 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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Our world is not perfect. But we do not stop trying. We study the past to learn from our mistakes. We remember those who were killed in the Holocaust. And we work to make the world better and safer for all of us.
Those words end this informative biography of Anne Frank's tragic life. Author Alexandra Zapruder starts the book with this paragraph:
Can you imagine being punished just for being who you are? Or because you look, think, or feel differently from those around you?
In between these two paragraphs is the story of a young girl who started writing a diary to help her deal with the brutality of the Nazi regime that terrorized Europe and beyond in the 20th century. Most, if not all, of you that read this already are familiar with Anne Frank's life and the diary that she kept while in hiding. So what suggests this particular retelling of her life? The story of Anne Frank, and the background knowledge needed to understand her situation, is told in a straightforward and simple text while still being extremely informative. That is a difficult task for an author. The reason this is valuable is that it makes reading about Anne Frank's life and the Holocaust accessible to students who are struggling readers in middle or high school. With the help of the insightful photographs and text features that you expect from a National Geographic book, readers who are reluctant to read about history would be more inclined to read this book as opposed to a dry textbook. Readers will understand why this is a horrible chapter in history that needs to be remembered. It also challenges us to do what we can to prevent people from being unfairly treated. One extra feature near the end of the book that provided new information for me was the inclusion of six other European young authors who also kept diaries of their experiences during World War II.
Anne Frank could be decoded by a student reading on a third grade level, but I wouldn't recommend handing it to a third grader to read independently. There are some pretty heady concepts working here that need added maturity for the reader to begin to grasp the information properly. I think it is a great text to give to a student in middle or high school who needs to read nonfiction and learn to use text features or read a biography.