The Tree in the Courtyard Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window
by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by Peter McCarty
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
This beautifully written and illustrated book tells the heartbreaking story of the Holocaust from the perspective of a tree in Anne Frank’s courtyard. Because it is told from the tree’s perspective, it creates some distance and peace regarding the horrible things that happened, making the book suitable for children who are 5 to 8 years old.
“The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak.” — Anne Frank
The opening quote of the book sets a reverent tone for the story about to unfold. The references to Anne Frank’s diary and the narrative of how this tree watched over this little girl were highlights for me as a reader. The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the first books I read on my own as a child and it sparked my life-long habit of writing in my daily journal. My eight-year-old daughter said this story reminded her of how much she likes to write in her own journal. Any child who is mildly interested in writing will relate to Anne Frank and learn about the atrocities of World War II in a gentle way. In the "Afterword," the history of Anne Frank, as it relates to this story, is detailed; it also includes a list of where the parts of this tree are now growing — all over the world.
While the story of an anthropomorphized tree watching over a young girl will not deliver an accurate history lesson, it may be a useful book to open the conversation about World War II and the Holocaust with very young readers. It might be helpful, however, to follow up with other, non-fantasy, books and a visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum Web site.
Olivia Sears is the mother of two daughters and a board operator and dejay at Montana Public Radio. Her interests and hobbies include reading, writing, cooking, beading, and playing and learning with her children. Some of her family's favorite reading adventures have to do with Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, Junie B. Jones, Beatrix Potter, Ramona and Beezus, and anything from David Shannon. Olivia learned a love of reading from her mother and keeps these words from Edmund Wilson in mind when writing her reviews: "No two persons ever read the same book."