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

illus. by Peter McCarty. 40p. ebook available. Knopf. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385753975.
RedReviewStarGr 2–4—A horse chestnut tree in the courtyard next to Anne Frank's secret annex serves as the focal point in this beautifully subtle picture book. Beginning with a quote from Anne's famous diary describing "the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew," the spare text and delicate illustrations create a moving and powerful ode to the tree that gave Anne comfort and hope during the years she and her family hid from the Nazis. Bearing witness to Anne's life in the annex, the tree serves as a fitting surrogate for readers, watching as Anne's story unfolds yet having no power to affect the outcome. Simple phrasing keeps the narrative poignant without becoming overly dramatic or sentimental. Mild anthropomorphizing gives the tree heart. Monochromatic illustrations rendered in brown ink are exquisitely detailed in fine lines and shading, conveying a solemn beauty befitting the book's subject. Additionally, the narrative choice to tell Anne's story through a series of moments deftly captures its pathos and importance, distinguishing this work from similar titles—Jane Kohuth's Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso's Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree. Details of Anne's arrest and death are presented in a brief yet thorough afterword, as is a list of the American locations where saplings from the chestnut tree have been planted in her honor.
VERDICT A noteworthy and highly recommended introduction to a difficult and significant topic.

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