Published by Scholastic Press, 2005
The Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank has become a classic in the annals of juvenile literature. Anne’s literary talents even at the age of thirteen are not inconsiderable, and she draws you into the story of her family and companions in hiding as if you were the trusted Kitty to whom she addresses her diary entries. The story is so well known and the era has been so thoroughly worked, both in fiction and nonfiction, in historical research and literary criticism, that the task of re-telling her story in a fresh and innovative fashion appears Herculean. Yet that is exactly the task Barry Denenberg attempts in Shadow Life
. For the most part, he succeeds admirably.
BEYOND THE DIARY
Of course, the diary is only part of the story. I remember how devestated I felt when I first came to the end of Diary of a Young Girl
in 1957. The last entry in the diary is quite unremarkable; then you are faced with a terse note that tells you Anne and her companions were betrayed, their hideout found out, and all were deported to a concentration camp. Indeed, not much more than that was known at the time. You might say that this is where the second part of the Anne Frank saga begins. Thousands of personal narratives, historical treatises, and millions of pages of primary and secondary source materials on the Holocaust – the destruction of European Jewry by the Third Reich Nazi regime – have appeared since then. Today a youngster in junior high school faces an entirely different challenge than I faced in 1957: the sheer volume of information available tends to be overwhelming. It is no wonder that Mr. Denenberg frankly tells us that he had never related to the Holocaust in a deep and personal sense, and that the diary of Anne Frank had not touched him with all its force at first reading.
Fortunately for youngsters reading his book today, it is clear that the author has clearly mastered the material and has been able to internalize it in such a way that he makes it come to life for the reader.
perhaps refers to the fact that the book is intended as a companion to the Diary. Denenberg tells the story in three parts: a history of the Frank family which merges into the Diary; a fictional exerpt from the diary of Anne’s sister, Margot, and an oral history of what happened to the family after they were discovered and sent first to Westerbork, then Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Margot’s diary entries, drawn from letters she had written to an American pen-pal and from elaborations Denenberg draws from certain incidents which Anne relates, is, in my opinion, the most innovative invention of the author. With this section Denenberg brings to life the older sister that, in the diary, always seems to play a minor role. The book concludes with an excellent time-table and bibliography on the Holocaust.
The book is addressed to junior and senior high school students, but it is an excellent introduction to the Anne Frank story for readers of any age.