A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book
A New York Public Library Best Book for Kids, 2016
Told from the perspective of the tree outside Anne Frank's window—and illustrated by a Caldecott Honor artist—this book introduces her story in a gentle and incredibly powerful way to a young audience.
The tree in the courtyard was a horse chestnut. Her leaves were green stars; her flowers foaming cones of white and pink. Seagulls flocked to her shade. She spread roots and reached skyward in peace.
The tree watched a little girl, who played and laughed and wrote in a diary. When strangers invaded the city and warplanes roared overhead, the tree watched the girl peek out of the curtained window of the annex. It watched as she and her family were taken away—and when her father returned after the war, alone.
The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace. Its story, and Anne’s story, are beautifully told and illustrated in this powerful picture book.
Gottesfeld (Anne Frank and Me) imagines that a massive horse chestnut tree, with leaves like "green stars," was a stalwart, loving observer of Anne Frank as she hid with her family for two years (the afterword notes that the tree is mentioned three times in The Diary of a Young Girl). The tree watches through an attic window as Anne fills the pages of her red-and-white diary and has her first kiss; when the family is taken away, the tree keeps vigil for them season after season. Writing with a quiet lyricism, Gottesfeld portrays the tree as never understanding why the family has to stay inside, or the forces that swept them away, which makes it a poignant surrogate for readers who are themselves coming to grips with happened to Anne and all the Jews who perished in the Holocaust. McCarty's (Bunny Dreams) sepia drawings, somber tableaus textured like fine engravings, convey the seriousness and sadness of the story, though perhaps less of Anne's exuberant personality. Ages 5 8. Author's agent: Jason Yarn, Paradigm Talent Agency. Illustrator's agent: Gotham Group.