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Archive for November 11th, 2016

tree-1

by Sam Juliano

The story of the extraordinarily perspicacious fifteen-year-old German/Dutch girl Anne Frank, enshrined in a diary she maintained during two years of Nazi occupation, has remained a staple in classrooms, has been translated into seventy languages, and according to some accounts has a wider circulation worldwide than any book other the Bible.  It is hardly a wonder that such a treasured document would hold such emotional sway in view of its brilliant young writer’s tragic end, yet her her life-affirming resilience in the face of this impending doom has inspired and moved readers to their cores. Volumes upon volumes of critical studies of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and the continued research into her short life have been the bane of historical scholars, and there can be no doubt this impassioned life force has moved mountains across the globe, no doubt precipitating more tears than any document ever written.  Stage plays, films and documentaries on her life and the twenty-five months she spent holed up in a series of tiny rooms, sealed off by a bookcase have been plentiful and sustained, yet there are other angles that haven’t been explored both as a narrative aside or as a symbolic extension.

In the achingly poignant picture book, poetically written by Jeff Gottesfeld and illustrated by the Caldecott Honoree Peter McCarty, The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window, a horse chestnut tree standing outside a secret annex that shields eight people from concentration camp doom during the height of the Holocaust takes on the dual role of guardian and as a gateway to the sealed off outer world.  In an afterward Gottesfeld confirms that young Anne made reference to the tree three times, though it is clear enough from the most stirring entry -the one the author showcases on the book’s opening page- that there is a metaphysical kinship with this venerable gateway to the outside world, one that encompasses beauty in its most unadulterated incarnation:

“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.” (more…)

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