cover image Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Yona Zeldis McDonough. Henry Holt & Company, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-4924-4

Mother-daughter team McDonough and Zeldis (Eve and Her Sisters) reunite to introduce children to the Holocaust in this sensitive portrayal of the famous adolescent. McDonough acknowledges that the subject may be difficult for picture-book aged children to understand: ""Nevertheless we are sometimes called upon to explain the inexplicable."" Her whittled account attempts to do just this, as when Hitler occupies Holland: ""Jews had lost their jobs and their possessions were taken away,"" leaving out the risk of deportation and death but giving young readers a sense of the dangers Frank faced. Zeldis' vividly colored, primitive gouache paintings seem almost carnivalesque (as when Hitler's armies are invading and only on close inspection does one see the bombers and their victims). But they address a complex subject without shying away from the gravity of the events, as in one scorching orange-framed portrait, which shows three shaven heads close up while behind them prisoners are marched about a camp. While avoiding some potentially upsetting particulars, McDonough does not whitewash the wartime horrors: ""Many people around them died of hunger and sickness. Many others were killed outright by the Nazis."" Ultimately, however, this is not a primer on the Holocaust, but a story of Anne Frank's life, filled with the universality of girlhood: reading books, lining her walls with movie stars' pictures, and of course, keeping a diary. Youngsters will have to wait for Frank's diary for a fuller picture of the atrocities she faced, but will take with them, from this account, the strength and optimism Frank exhibited throughout her unconscionable ordeal. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)