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Author: Gottesfeld, Jeff
Illustrator: McCarty, Peter
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year Published: 2016
ISBN: 9780385753975
Grades: Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6

Tree in the Courtyard, The: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window

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The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew….and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak.  – Anne Frank
Both those familiar with and new to the Diary of Anne Frank, will be moved not only by Anne’s words about a chestnut tree, but by the perspective of a tree that grew and saw what transpired in Anne’s life. It also sees beyond her lifetime as it continues to grow outside her hiding place, where her Jewish family hid in Amsterdam during Word War II . This story as much about a tree’s life, as it is about Anne’s life.  In 2010, the tree died (the year Anne Frank would have turned eighty one years old), but its seeds and saplings have become a symbol of peace and are planted throughout the world at special memorials e.g. Twin Towers memorial in New York City.
This story is unique in its perspective; it lets readers see what the tree might have seen before, during and after Anne’s life.  It is a fresh take on Anne Frank’s life and how a symbol, such as a tree from our natural world, can become a reminder of something we struggle to accept or comprehend about man’s nature.  The illustrations of brown ink on watercolor paper, give one the feeling of looking at historical photographs and match the somber mood and topic of the book. Most of the illustrations show Anne as a young girl, rather than the teenager she was when she wrote her journal.
The afterword at the end of the book provides information about Anne Frank, and lets readers know that many of the incidents in this book are based upon Anne’s actual diary entries e.g. sewing curtains, air raids, a communal Chanukah celebration and Anne’s quote about the chestnut tree.  It lists notable places where the chestnut tree’s seeds have been planted in America.  This book makes one wonder where the other trees are planted and a map of locations of its’ children saplings would have added more to the story. This may be compared and used with two other books about this chestnut tree, Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree (Jane Kohuth) 9780449812556 Step into Reading Level 3 and Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree (Sandy Eisenberg Sasso) 978155896-73-0 for ages 6-9.
This book is ideal for teaching children about the Holocaust in a sensitive manner.  It provides an introduction to the Diary of Anne Frank, or may be used effectively for Remembrance Day activities. The publisher provides pre-reading activities and discussion questions for this book along with other Holocaust books in the teacher resource, Holocaust: Read to Remember  @ http://www.randomhouse.com/teachers/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Holocaust_ReadtoRemember_EG_2016_WEB.pdf
It is suitable for grades 3-12 in introducing perspective in writing and or is well matched to the Alberta grade six science unit: Trees and Forests.
 
 

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