Friday, January 31, 2014

Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree by Jane Kohuth (Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles)

A Symbol of Hope
Anne Frank's chestnut tree before it fell down in 2010. 
Jane Kohuth's book Anne Frank's Chestnut Tree was published in 2013 and is a truthful biography of the story of Anne Frank's time spent in hiding in the secret annex in Amsterdam during World War II. Although the story provides information about Anne's life before her family went into hiding, the main focus of the story is on the chestnut tree that Anne could see from the attic window. The tree was very important to Anne, as she mentioned it several times in her diary. For her, it became a symbol of hope.

After standing for more than 150 years, the tree began to show signs of disease in 2005, and after extensive efforts were made to save the tree, the tree was blown down in a storm in 2010.

What happened to Anne's chestnut tree?
The Secret Annex
Anne's Chestnut tree in 2003.
In her book, Kohuth explains how the tree made Anne feel: "In the world around her, Anne saw fighting and fear. But in the blue sky above, she saw beauty and peace. So she climbed up to the attic. The windows there were not covered. Anne looked out and saw the tall chestnut tree. She felt the sun on her face. Seeing the tree and sky calmed Anne. It helped her feel brave. . . .She noticed the passing seasons by watching the chestnut tree grow buds and leaves. . . .Nature made Anne feel that God had not left her. She wrote in her diary, 'I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer'" (32-37).

Anne' Chestnut tree in 2006
Anne Frank's diary has been read by millions of middle school children around the world. Kohuth's book could be used to introduce her story to young children who are newly independent readers; however, young children would probably have difficulty understanding this book because they don't have prior knowledge of World War II and the Holocaust. This topic would best be shared with older children who are ready to understand the complexity of what happened during the war.

One problem I found with the book was the cover; I believe the illustrations on the cover and throughout the book would have been more effective if they had been realistic in their presentation. Although this is an important story that should be told, I believe the book could have reached a wider audience had the author written for young adults rather than young children. Realistic images would have provided credibility to the story.

Anne Frank's Official Website
Anne Frank's Tree Interactive
Anne Frank's Tree Falls Over
Image Source
Image Source for Kohuth's Book


  1. I've never heard of this book, it sounds incredible! Is this a picture book, or a chapter book? Thanks for sharing it.