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Review: Anne Frank’s Diary: A Graphic Adaptation

Image of Book Cover Anne Frank's Diary A Graphic Adaptation

A couple of weeks ago, my husband took a day off from work and joined me in a visit to the Jewish Heritage Museum’s exhibit on Auschwitz. The experience was gut wrenching. Though I’m well versed in Holocaust history—I have family that perished and some family that survived—I find it important to read all the stories that have recently been printed, because so many survivors are dying from old age. I grew up hearing first-hand accounts, but my children won’t necessarily have that opportunity. Literature may be one of the most compelling ways for them to understand their history.

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
Adapted by Ari Folman. Illustrations by David Polonsky
October 2018, Pantheon Books, $24.95
Grades 8 and up

Anne Frank’s story is a well-known one and for many people, it is their only knowledge of the Holocaust. At times, I resent that, because there is so much more to the Holocaust than this Diary, but I understand why her story is so relatable and why it has withstood the test of time. Folman’s graphic adaptation made me realize all over again why so many connect to her: Because teens (and adults looking back on their teen years) can relate to Anne’s feelings and emotions.

The adaptation sticks very closely to the text, but Folman explains in his author’s note that it was necessary to consolidate and omit many of the diary entries. While I have never read the definitive edition, it was obvious that Folman used that has his basis, for there were many edgier scenes that I did not recall from the diary (which I admit, I read long ago). 

For a graphic novel, this adaptation is very text heavy. Often, there were 2-3 pages of dense text with just a few small illustrations. The denseness of the text made it difficult to read. In fact, in my reading slump, I put this aside, until today, I forced myself to pick it up again.

If it weren’t for Polonsky’s artwork, I would say put this book down and go read the original. But Polonsky adds humor to what is definitely not a humorous situation. The artwork is charming, bold, and witty. It’s the artwork, in my opinion, that is the reason I kept hearing, “Did you read the new adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary?”

Though the content is a bit mature, this should be included in library collections and should be read widely. The diary touches on body changes, budding romances, Anne’s view of herself as a woman. And while there’s a whole lot more to the Holocaust than Anne Frank’s diary, it’s a piece that young people should know about.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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