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Behind the Bookcase

Barbara Lowell Valentina Toro

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Lerner Publishing Group
01 October 2020
Miep Gies, who as a girl was a refugee during World War I, recognized that Europe again became a dark place under the Nazis. With bravery and loyalty, Miep helped to shelter Anne Frank's family, preserving the great legacy of Anne's diary.
By:   Barbara Lowell
Illustrated by:   Valentina Toro
Imprint:   Lerner Publishing Group
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 279mm,  Width: 229mm, 
ISBN:   9781541557260
ISBN 10:   1541557263
Pages:   40
Publication Date:   01 October 2020
Recommended Age:   From 7 to 8 years
Audience:   Children/juvenile ,  English as a second language
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Barbara Lowell is the author of several books for children, including Sparky & Spike: Charles Schulz and the Wildest, Smartest Dog Ever. Barbara lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Valentina Toro is a graphic designer and children's book illustrator, with an MA in Creative Writing. Valentina has written several children's books in Colombia and has worked with authors from all over the world. She lives in Colombia.

Reviews for Behind the Bookcase

Sometimes history is chronicled in years. Sometimes it's chronicled in minutes. Almost anyone who has been to Hebrew school and many who haven't know the basic facts of Anne Frank's life: Her family hid for two years in a tiny annex. The Nazis found them, in spite of all their secrecy. Anne left a diary that ensured generations of readers would never forget the lives lost in the Holocaust. This new biography mentions each of those facts, but it focuses on smaller moments: Anne's learning to walk, and then sashay, in high heels. Anne's decorating the walls, comically, with pictures of chimpanzees. The book focuses in particular on Miep Gies, the gentile woman who helped them and then found the diary, and some of the details about her childhood are startling. An Austrian refugee, she was taken in during World War I by Dutch strangers who then raised her. (Gies and all of the historical figures depicted have pale skin.) The focus on details is both the book's value and its chief flaw. It describes the moment-to-moment experience of life in an attic. Some of those moments are deeply moving, but some are mundane, a catalogs of pots and pans and dirty clothes. Readers may find the book a bit less heartbreaking then others on Frank because the larger history is so familiar. The main facts have been told many times in many books. Toro's illustrations, however, make every scene haunting, with dark shadows on the Franks' faces, as though they're covered with ash. The story's familiarity takes away only some of its power and its urgency. -- Kirkus Reviews -- Journal This thoughtful new picture book recounts the main points of Anne Frank's life in hiding: where she hid, with whom, who helped them, how they were caught, and the later discovery and publication of her diary. Lowell stays true to the historical tragedy but also allows sensitive readers some distance by telling the story largely through the point of view of Miep Gies--a German Dutch employee of Anne's father, who helped hide the family--including several pages about Miep's own childhood. The main text also takes a gentle and indirect, but still clear, approach to Anne's death: 'Of all the people in the hiding place, only Mr. Frank returned from the concentration camps.' (For readers with questions, the author's note at the end provides more detail.) Similarly, Toro's soft, not-too-realistic illustrations focus on people and relationships, evoking emotions more than traumatic events. Even after the Franks are captured, illustrations of scattered possessions suggest rather than show violence. A historically accurate but relatively gentle introduction to the Holocaust for elementary-age readers. -- Miriam Aronin, Booklist -- Journal Lowell's tale focuses on Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who helped Anne Frank and her family hide from the Nazis, then saved and preserved Frank's diary. After WWI, Gies was a malnourished child refugee from Austria; years later, this experience leads to her special relationship with Anne--Miep 'knew how it felt to be young and leave everything in your world behind.' Toro's illustrations use a muted palette; sharp, sketchy lines; and gently exaggerated shapes to convey tension, but also joy, as when Miep brings Anne a pair of red high heels to wear, 'a small moment of happiness.' Best suited for those already familiar with Frank's story; includes an author's note, bibliography, and further reading. -- Publishers Weekly -- Journal 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. - Kathleen Isaacs, Children's -Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD -- Journal


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