'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 5 March 2020

Review: Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation

Growing up in the Netherlands, I have vivid memories from when I was a teenager reading Het Dagboek van Anne Frank (Anne Frank’s Diary) and visiting het achterhuis (the secret annex).

I also read and still have copies of her father’s, Otto Frank, autobiography as well as that of one of the helpers, Miep Gies. So, I was very interested in reading this graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary.

The adaption begins in 1942 with 13-year-old Anne living an ordinary life in the Netherlands. After she receives a diary for her birthday, she declares it her best friend and names it, Kitty.

Anne Frank and her parents, Otto and Edith Frank, and her sister Margot have moved to the Netherlands from Germany because of the Nazi’s rise to power and the worsening treatment of the Jewish people. After the Nazis occupy the Netherlands, and to escape being sent to work or concentration camps, the family hides at Otto Frank’s office behind a bookcase which leads to a secret annex.

They are joined by Mr and Mrs van Daan and their son Peter. Anne’s parents and Margot share a bedroom and Anne has a small room to herself until Albert Dussel, one of the helpers’ dentist, also moves into hiding with them.

The adaptation had to omit and condense many of the diary entries, to make it work as an illustrated version, but the edited text gives a good insight into Anne’s thoughts and struggles and what it was like for her in sharing a confined space for two years.

Anne astutely and with great self-awareness describes her thoughts and feelings including comparisons made between herself and her sister Margot, her struggles with her mother, her love for her father, her observations of the other housemates and later her evolving romance with Peter as well as her feelings of fear and depression.

Anne’s humour shines throughout, including her thoughts on Mrs van Daan’s obsession with her chamber pot.

The diary gives an insight into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, the hardships and poverty and prosecution of people from Jewish descent as well as the dependency of those hiding on their helpers and the dangers they faced in keeping the people in the annex safe and fed.

If reading this book with younger children, be aware that this adaptation also includes Anne’s candid and unabridged thoughts and feelings as a sexually developing woman.

The illustrations show the décor, fashion and living conditions of the time, as well as capturing Anne’s fears and dreams in a more surrealistic illustrative style.  The illustrations are often interspersed with  pages of longer unillustrated diary entries.

The afterword explains how Dutch Security Police arrested the families and briefly relates their various fates including Anne and Margot’s death at concentration camp Bergen-Belsen from a typhus epidemic in 1945 not long before the end of the war.

I will be using this graphic adaption of Anne Frank’s Diary with my children as a jumping-off point to discussing WWII from a Dutch (European) perspective and to continue discussions around broader themes such as racism and nationalism.

I highly recommend this graphic adaption.

Title: Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
Author: Adapted by Ari Folman
Illustrator: David Polonsky
Publisher: Viking, $29.99
Publication Date: 2 October 2018
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780241978641
For ages: 10+ 
Type: Graphic Novel