Behind the Bookcase: Miep Gies, Anne Frank, and the Hiding Place

Kar-Ben. Sept. 2020. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781541557253.
Gr 2-4–When the Nazis became a danger to Jewish people living in Amsterdam during World War II, Miep Gies helped hide Anne Frank and her family. After the Frank family’s arrest, Gies rescued Anne’s diary and returned it to Otto Frank after the war. Lowell was inspired by Gies’s memoir to retell this story for young readers. The text summarizes the Frank family’s experience in a chronological narrative. The prose is gentle enough to serve as a reader’s first encounter with Holocaust literature. The narrative begins with a map and brief information about Nazi Germany and its threat to the Jewish community. Lowell explains, “They stole the Dutch Jews’ possessions, homes, and freedoms.” The author then introduces Gies, who was once a refugee. Gies’s parents sent her to the Netherlands when she was 11 after Austria lost World War I. As an adult, she went to work for Otto Frank. She was one of only five people in the Frank office who knew of the hiding place upstairs. The narrative’s straightforward tone may make it less effective for readers who liked Meeg Pincus’s Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary, which has a stronger emotional resonance, opening with the family’s arrest and focusing more on Gies’s relationship with Anne’s diary. The subdued palette and old-fashioned look of Toro’s illustrations support the text beautifully. Though the attic has windows and there are decorative touches, the sense of confinement is strong. An author’s note adds information about the family’s experience.
VERDICT A solid, additional title that can serve as an introduction to Holocaust literature.

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