“History is written by the victors,” the old saw goes. If so, then Holocaust victim, Anne Frank, has defied history. Her diary, an account of bestial savagery on a staggering scale as seen through the eyes of innocence, is an indictment of the ultimate harvest of hate far more powerful than the reams of scholarly and eloquent text that have followed in its wake over the decades.
Anne Frank’s The Diary of A Young Girl, read and revered by tens of millions, has been translated and re-translated, edited and re-edited, adapted into a play, then another play, then a movie, then several more movies, and now has been adapted into a graphic novel, Anne Frank’s Diary – The Graphic Adaptation.
The Anne Frank Fonds, founded in 1963 by the sole surviving family member, Anne’s father Otto—approached filmmaker Ari Folman to write and direct an animated film for children based on Anne’s diary, and edit the diary into a graphic adaptation. The result—with illustrations by award-winning art director and children’s book illustrator David Polonsky—is an open door into the thoughts and feelings of an extraordinary human spirit and is at once visual and visceral. Anne, already a first-class writer at age 13, displays an insight into human nature far beyond her years, as well as a compassionate optimism for the world which her world did not always deserve. The adapters pay homage to her unique and ever-hopeful view of life through unforgettable illustrations.
On a dark and despairing day in 1944 when Anne writes, “As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you’ll know that you’re pure within and will find happiness once more,” we are taken to the loft of the Secret Annex and afforded a view of the clear blue sky through its window. But then we see Anne herself in the sky, arms outstretched flying freely. In this way and throughout the book adapter and illustrator honor the dreams and imagination of a young girl coping with unimaginably horrific circumstances—the constant threat of discovery and death, the terror accompanying the sounds of approaching footsteps, a far-away siren, an unfamiliar squeak on a floorboard; the ever-present specter of slow starvation; and the anguished need for news of any kind—hopeful or hopeless—to fill the void of information, and give one a reason to live (or not) for just one more day.
No, this is not a book for your seven-year-old. The images are too vivid, and Anne’s occasional excursions into pubescent curiosity, while understandable, are best reserved for middle schoolers and high schoolers.
Adapter Ari Folman begins his Note at the book’s conclusion with historian Alvin Rosenfield’s contention that “more people are probably familiar with the Nazi era through the figure of Anne Frank than through any other figure of that period with the possible exception of Adolf Hitler himself.”
With this latest and most visually impacting incarnation of the indomitable spirit of Anne Frank finding a home on school and home bookshelves the world over, a new generation can inherit familiarity with the depths to which hatred can sink and the heights to which the human spirit can soar. And that warning and reassurance, coming it ford in the voice of a child, will continue to speak to our hearts over the ages to come.
Anne Frank’s Diary – The Graphic Adaptation, adapted by Ari Folman, Illustrated by David Polonsky, Published by Pantheon Books, 149 pages
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