cover image SEARCHING FOR ANNE FRANK: Letters from Amsterdam to Iowa

SEARCHING FOR ANNE FRANK: Letters from Amsterdam to Iowa

Susan Goldman Rubin, . . Abrams, $19.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-4514-2

Although the promise of newly rediscovered correspondence from Anne Frank can hardly fail to generate excitement, the "letters" here (held since 1988 by the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance) are likely to disappoint. The correspondence consists of one letter each from Anne and her sister, Margot, to their new American pen pals (arranged through Anne's school), plus a postcard with Anne's comments about bridges and canals in Amsterdam, and the letters are understandably impersonal. Rubin (Degas and the Dance ) even suggests, without explanation, that the girls' father may have had a hand in them: "It is believed that Anne's first draft was in Dutch, and then her father, Otto Frank, translated the words and had her redo the letter in English." The rest of the book revisits previously available information about the Franks, juxtaposed with the wartime experiences of the Frank girls' erstwhile pen pals, the sisters Juanita and Betty Wagner, from Danville, Iowa. Unfortunately, the book overdramatizes the connection between the Franks and the Wagners. For example, Rubin writes that the Wagner girls immediately replied to the letters reproduced here (dated April 27 and April 29, 1940), then "waited and waited" for responses and "wondered why" they heard nothing—even though by mid-May they knew, from their teacher, that Germany had invaded Holland and cut off communication. Abundant visuals include photos, movie stills and ephemera. Like the text, however, the contrast between the illustrations of wartime Holland and those of homefront America suggests a chasm more than a link. Ages 10-up. (Nov.)