The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Linda Marshall and Review of Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Aroun
Linda (Elovitz) Marshall has been an early childhood educator, studied Cultural Anthropology, owned her own bookstore, done freelance writing and ghost writing, and raised four children and a small flock of sheep. She’s the author of 16 books, 5 of which released this year. - Saving The Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit (January), Shalom Bayit: A Peaceful Home (March), Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz? (April), and The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine (August)
Her newest nonfiction picture book, Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World, released yesterday!
Welcome Linda, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest book and writing.
Thank you, Maria. What a pleasure it is to be here, to share my thoughts and work with your readers. I really appreciate you taking this time. Having the same last name (Marshall) makes it even more fun. We’re not related but, if we were, it would be even more special!
Hmm…maybe this is a good time to tell our readers that Maria and I first “met” this spring at a Highlights Gather – a zoom meeting during the stay-at-home organized by the Highlights Foundation. I saw Maria Marshall’s name…and reached out to say hi!
I agree with that. So, what was your inspiration for Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World?
The inspiration came from an editor – Orli Zuravicky, who was then at Scholastic – and with whom I’d worked on another story. As it turned out, she and I are both from the Albany, NY area and I knew her when she was small, the age of my children. On my first project with Scholastic, I learned that someone named Orli Zuravicky would be my editor and asked if she was from Albany. It was the same Orli! She soon became my editor…and my friend.
That's so funny. Titles can be tricky how long did it take to arrive at this title?
As often happens, this title changed several times. In an early draft, I called it, “Anne’s Gift: The Story of Anne Frank, Writer.” Next, I changed it to “Someone to Listen, Someone to Tell,” then it became, “Write Out Loud: The Story of Anne Frank.” Later, it became “And the Whole World Heard.” And, finally, “Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World.”
In all, it took a little more than two years to arrive at this title.
Wow, two years to figure out the title! Can you tell us about the refrain – “she wrote what she could not say”? When and how did you come up with it?
There were so many times that Anne had things she needed to talk about. But it was dangerous – or hurtful – to talk. There are times when “silence is golden,” when “discretion is the better part of valor,” when “loose lips sink ships,” times when privacy and solace is needed. In those times, what do we do with feelings and thoughts that must, must, MUST come out?
Anne wrote her thoughts. She wrote what she could not say.
Sometimes, I do that, too. Do you?
I do, but probably not as much as I should. Did the process of researching & writing Anne Frank differ from that of Saving the Countryside: The Story of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit and/or The Polio Pioneer: Dr. Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine? If so, how?
Each book, each story is so very different. But for each one, I used a similar process for writing. Specifically, I did not begin the actual writing until I felt that I could internalize my subjects, could “walk” next to them and have a “conversation.” In other words, I needed to feel them.
Researching Anne Frank, I read her writings over and over, focusing on what she said and did. I tried to make her accessible to young readers. I wanted to make Anne and her need to speak her mind, the process of her becoming a writer, clear to my readers.
Researching Beatrix, I went to England, walked in her footsteps, drank tea in her house, visited museums dedicated to her. I steeped myself in all-things-Beatrix Potter.
Researching Salk: I started by contacting the SALK Institute in La Jolla, California, telling them that I was considering writing a book about Dr. Salk. I was fortunate to be given a private “tour” of the Institute and to meet with the librarian there as well as with several other very helpful people. Later, I had a phone conversation with Dr. Salk’s son, Peter.
Actually, it could be said that I started the story when I was four or five years old and was whisked away from polio-ridden Boston and into Hartford, CT where my mother’s family lived. I never forgot that trip…nor did I ever forget what a hero Dr. Salk was to me.
What great experiences and an amazing connection to Dr. Salk. How long did it take for Anne Frank to go from idea to publication?
It took a little more than three years from June 2017 when I started working on it, until its September 2020 publication.
With 11 other picture books published about Anne Frank, what’s the unique angle of your book on Anne Frank?
This story begins with Anne as a baby, then as a child who was LOUD and a bit mischievous, full of sparkle and energy. The unique angle of Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World is that Anne channeled her need to SHOUT her feelings and observations to the world by becoming a writer, by using her diary. It’s the story of how she was, literally, heard around the world.
That is a very unique angle to an often-told story! Congratulations on finding that "in" to her story. Is there something you want your readers to know about Anne Frank?
Read The Diary of Anne Frank. It’s powerful. It will move you in a way that few other books do. Keep your eyes open to hatred, to oppression of people. Speak out and stop oppression and hatred in any way you can. Make noise.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t take much for democracy to disappear… All it takes is for good people to stay quiet…
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.
That is a very pertinent and powerful poem. Thank you! Having worked with a number of illustrators, what has been your best experience so far? Your biggest surprise?
Talia and the Rude Vegetables (KarBen/Lerner), one of my very first books, was illustrated by kind and creative Francesca Assirelli (http://francescaassirelli.blogspot.com). At that time, Francesca lived Rome, Italy. My husband and I were planning a trip there, so I contacted Francesca as well as another American writer, Susan Minot, who lived in Rome. The three of us arranged to meet. Very early upon our arrival at our AirBnB, Francesca and Susan tromped up the apartment building stairs and into our apartment, welcoming us to Roma, bringing along lovely breakfast – a pranza! It was wonderful! And can you guess what I brought for Francesca? A manuscript! That manuscript ultimately became Talia and the Very YUM! Kippor (KarBen/Lerner). A few years later, we did Talia and the Haman Tushies (KarBen/Lerner)! This has been great fun! A real gift! Thank you, Francesca. Mille gracies!
As for surprises…A few years ago, I’d signed up for a conference in Lake George, NY. When I realized I’d be driving alone from New York City, I asked if any of the attendees would like a ride. A lovely young woman responded and, together, we had a great time on the ride – four whole hours to chat! Imagine my surprise when I learned that the same delightful woman – Aura Lewis – would become the illustrator of Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World! Thank you, Aura! The book is beautiful!
I suppose that's proof that it really is "a small world." What was the toughest aspect of writing and/or researching Anne Frank?
How do you write, for children, about Anne Frank, about the Holocaust – the horrors, the unspeakable horrors? How do you tell the truth… and not terrify? The people I personally knew who survived the Nazi concentration camps – my teacher, my husband’s aunt – are gone now. They went through unspeakable horrors…and, yet their stories must be told.
I applaud you and your editor for tackling this tough topic. So, a little more light-hearted, do you have a favorite spread from Anne Frank?
Text © Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Image © Aura Lewis, 2020.
Aura’s work is bold and powerful. I don’t have a favorite spread, just great admiration for Aura and for the entire team at Scholastic that worked so hard to put together this important book. To all of them, thank you!
My favorite image is the final spread showing that the world did indeed hear her words. How have you been coping with Covid & 5 virtual releases? Do you have any advice for those just learning their book is to be published? (Best experience to try or worst experience to avoid now or when we can get back to in-person releases & school visits?)
I wish I had some wisdom to share. I just hope we have a vaccine soon…and that we can stop this horrible virus from spreading. I’m very grateful to my kidlit friends and colleagues in social media platforms (like you, Maria, thank you so very, very much!). I just wish I were better at social media.
(And if anyone knows a social media wizard to send my way, please do!)
So, what are some things you are doing to stay creative?
I read. I try to write a poem every day. I take pictures. I make up stuff and play. I’ve been taking courses and doing zoom stuff with other writers. I took a course (via zoom) to do Improv. I also took a zoom Acting Class and zoom Singing Lessons. I swim. Ideas float around while I have my head in the water. I also eat chocolate and ice cream. I have a visceral need to create something every day. It can be a poem or a cake or an essay, but I need to make something…even if it’s just a joke. Some people need to do things. I need to make things.
Since one can always find something to make, that could make this crazy time easier. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I’m often working on several different projects at once. I have three picture books forthcoming in 2022 and 2023, none of which have yet been officially announced so I won’t say anything else. I’m also working on a MG novel that I’ve been working on for years. Someday, I hope it’ll be perfect and ready to go! Meanwhile, other ideas keep percolating!
Congratulations on the upcoming books! Is there any one thing you can’t do without?
Yes. I need something to write with – pencil, paper, the “notes” section in my phone. I was stuck – alone – in an elevator for about 45 minutes….and was trying to figure out what I could do that was useful (or fun). I didn’t have my phone with me, or paper, or anything to write with. Not a single idea would come. Nothing. There wasn’t even anything in the elevator to count. So, yes, I guess I need writing tools…any writing tools…even sand or a stick to scratch notes into dirt or mud. That’s my answer for today. If you ask me tomorrow, it might be different. It could be Butter Pecan Ice Cream or something…
Yikes! What a place to get stuck! Thank you, Linda for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.
Thank you, Maria. What a delight this has been!
To find out more about Linda Marshall, or get in touch with her:
Review of Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World
I remember reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as a child. Her brutal honesty of the war and the conditions in the attic (the required silence, cramped quarters), as well as her senseless death really stuck with me. I wondered how one could condense such a weighty, important story into a picture book.
I was happy to discover that this book is a delightful introduction to an amazing girl who discovered the power of writing to capture words and events that were hard to talk about.
Anne Frank: The Girl Hear Around The World
Author: Linda Elovitz Marshall
Illustrator: Aura Lewis
Publisher: Scholastic (2020)
World War II, writing, and finding your voice.
An evocative and accessible picture book about Anne Frank and how she found her voice in a world determined to silence her. All her life, Anne Frank wanted to be heard. Really, truly heard. Linda Elovitz Marshall introduces readers to the story of Anne Frank in this powerful book about family, war, and the importance of finding your voice. During her two years in hiding from the Nazis, Anne Frank poured her soul into a red plaid diary named Kitty. She wrote honestly of the reality of Nazi occupation, of daily life in the annex, and of her longing to be heard. More than anything, Anne spoke the truth, and her words have echoed throughout history. Gorgeous prose and striking art deliver Anne's ever-relevant story with poignancy and grace, while robust back matter -- including biographical information, an author's note, and a timeline -- makes this the perfect book for history curriculums.
All her life, Anne Frank wanted to be heard.
Really, truly heard.
What I Liked about this Book:
Many people know the story of Anne Frank, hiding from the Nazis behind a bookcase. But what drove her to write in her journal? What did the journal mean to her?
For a gregarious, outspoken, young girl in Amsterdam during the Nazis take over in 1940, it was dangerous to speak out. That year, for her 13th birthday, Anne received a red diary. In need of someone to talk to, Anne named her diary Kitty and told her everything. Using restrictions accessible to kids, Linda notes that Anne “wrote about new rules that stopped her—and all Jews—from riding bikes, going to movies, playing in public parks, and attending public schools.” Restrictions both a world away, and yet not so far away, for many children today.
Text © Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Image © Aura Lewis, 2020.
Wen Anne turned her teacher's complaint that she was a "chatterbox" into a poem, his praise made her realize that writing allowed her to be "really, truly heard." Linda Marshall does a great job weaving this thread and refrain throughout the book. Drawing the reader through Anne's experiences within the framework of her writing and finding her voice.
Anne's diary became her most prized possession. It was first thing she packed, when her family hid. Then required to be always quiet, Anne poured everything into Kitty. The things she missed, what she did and saw, her fears and dreams, and most importantly she "wrote what she could not say."
Text © Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Image © Aura Lewis, 2020.
Condensing the rise of Hitler and the German invasion of the Netherlands, years of hiding, their eventual capture, and Anne's death (weeks before the war ended) into a picture book was quite a challenge. But as an integral part of Anne's story, it had to be told. By setting apart the history, maps, and events of the war in darker greys and browns, Aura Lewis helps to subtly provide the context for Anne's story (shown primarily in subdued pastels) without overtaking it.
While Linda didn't sugar-coat, or evade, what happened, she deftly focuses the narrative on Anne's writing. On the stories Anne created and her dreams of publishing a book when the war ended. Linda beautifully wraps it all up with the amazing final lines, "She wrote what she could not say . . . and the whole world heard." A biography, timeline, authors note, sources, and website extend the book for readers and teachers or librarians. This is a great introduction for young readers into Anne Frank, one that should spark curiosity and lots of questions.
Craft note: In stark, contrasting scenes, the text and illustrations bookend both the emotions and the physical entrance and exit of the attic. As they enter the attic, they hid because "an arrest would mean prison . . . or worse" and as they exit, they were "taken away to prisons . . . and worse." Climbing up, the steps are tan and they people are individually distinct in blue and brown clothing. Whereas climbing down the now grey steps, Aura depicts grey silhouettes of the group and Nazi police. Interestingly, these two images, in blue tones, also form the end pages.
- make your own journal and write or draw in it everyday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu4hEQf64GY&ab_channel=PumpkinEmily)
- write a description, or draw a picture of the hardest thing for you this year to be restricted from doing or a place you couldn't go? Can you imagine giving it up for two years?
- read The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window by Jeff Gottesfeld, The Cat Who Lived With Anne Frank by David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Rubin, and Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank's Diary by Meeg Pincus. How are they similar and how are the different in portraying Anne Frank?