Book review: The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking through Anne Frank’s Window, by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Peter McCarty

Gottesfeld, Jeff. The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking through Anne Frank’s Window. Illus. by Peter McCarty. Knopf, 2016. $17.99. 40p. 9780385753975. Ages 7-10. P8Q10

Gottesfeld Tree in the CourtyardIn memorializing the brief life of Anne Frank, Gottesfeld uses the perspective of the horse chestnut tree outside Frank’s secret annex window while she hides from Nazi imprisonment during World War II. Frank mentions the tree only three times in her diary—one time referring to “the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew”—but it remains a symbol of ever-lasting life from its seeds and saplings taken around the world as a remembrance despite the tree’s death at the age of 172 years. Like Anne’s family, the tree waits and watches with no power to save themselves. Simple language lack any dramatic sentimentality that might be so easy to use in a tragedy that killed over 6 million people and displaced millions more, and the fine ink lines and shading of the monochromatic sepia illustrations add a solemnity to the tree’s observations. This book is an excellent introduction to an era that casts a blackness over humanity. Information about Frank’s arrest and death shortly before the war’s end and a list of some U.S. locations where the tree’s descendants now grow are included at the end.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

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