The Picture Book Buzz

Behind the Bookcase: Miep Gies, Anne Frank, and the Hiding Place - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

As tough as this year has been, our brush with "shortages" or supply/production (and hoarding/gouging) issues has been so minor compared to the experiences of those who lived through WWII.


While many of us have sheltered at home for much of this year, we could still watch television, use the internet, go outside into our yards, or take walks in our neighborhoods. We could still go about our daily lives, listen to music, make noise, and visit with friends or family members over the phone or the internet. We could still order in food or meals or make quick trips to the grocery stores or restaurants for pick-up orders.


For many of us this is the first time we've experienced anything like this. Yet, as significant as it is, it pales in comparison to the experiences of those who spent years silently hiding. Isolated and alone, crammed into small spaces, dreading discovery, and hoping for food.


While the story of Anne Frank, her family, and friends hiding from the Nazis is familiar to most of us, the details of Miep Gies (the woman who helped hide them and saved Anne's diary) are less well known. This is a wonderful biography of the brave woman who saved Anne Frank's diary.



Behind the Bookcase: Miep Gies, Anne Frank, and the Hiding Place


Author: Barbara Lowell


Illustrator: Valentina Toro


Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing (2020)


Ages: 7-11


Nonfiction


Themes:

Holocaust, WWII, friendship, kindness, and courage.


Synopsis:

Anne Frank’s diary is a gift to the world because of Miep Gies. One of the protectors of the Frank family, Miep recovered the diary after the family was discovered by Nazis, and then returned it to Otto Frank after World War II. Displaced from her own home as a child during World War I, Miep had great empathy for Anne, and she found ways―like talking about Hollywood gossip and fashion trends―to engage her. The story of their relationship―and the impending danger to the family in hiding―unfolds in this unique perspective of Anne Frank’s widely known story.


Opening Lines:

When the world was a very dark place,

Miep Gies helped hide Anne Frank.


World War II spread across Europe and into Africa. Nazi Germany

occupied many countries, including the Netherlands where

Miep and the Frank family lived. The Nazis controlled the Dutch.

They rationed food, making it harder and harder to buy. They

threatened Dutch people. Anyone caught helping Jews would be

thrown into prison or worse.


Why I Liked this book:

There are a number of picture books about Anne Frank but I know of only one other on Miep Giles. The brave, resourceful, heroic woman responsible for helping hide Anne's family and saving Anne Frank's diary from the Nazi.


While Barbara Lowell's text gently introduces younger readers to the Holocaust, it is very clear through both the sober tone and Valentina Toro's sepia toned and muted color illustrations that this was a scary, dangerous time. Notably, the only bright color throughout the book is the deep red of the Nazi flag.

Text © Barbra Lowell, 2020. Image © Valentina Toro, 2020.


After providing a brief explanation of the dangers to the Frank family and anyone who helped them, Barbara explains why Miep risked everything. To survive after WWI, many Austrian parents, Miep's included, sent their children to the Netherlands to live with foster families. Knowing "how it felt to be young and leave everything in your world behind," Miep was not only determined to help Otto Frank and his family but developed a special connection with Anne. Even if they haven't been in the foster care system themselves, kids will understand and empathize with Miep's sense of isolation and aloneness; so poignantly depicted in this spread.

Text © Barbra Lowell, 2020. Image © Valentina Toro, 2020.


It is interesting to see the hiding place and the ever-present fear through Miep's eyes. To experience Anne's joy in showing off the pictures around her room. And discover how a church clock which chimed every fifteen minutes, was welcomed by Anne - because "it broke the silence that scared her," and the cause of a terrified, sleepless night for Miep.

Text © Barbra Lowell, 2020. Image © Valentina Toro, 2020.


By saving Anne's diary, Miep ensured that "Anne’s voice lives on. She lives in the hearts of readers who will always remember her." Ultimately, feeling that she only did what was right, what many Dutch people did to stand up to oppression, Miep refused to see herself as a hero. A detailed author's note, filling out information on both Miep and the Frank family, further reading suggestions, and a bibliography are provided. Overall, this is a great addition to early elementary Holocaust literature, evaluating the history through the lens and experience of an often-forgotten hero. A woman whose strength, courage, and compassion should be celebrated and emulated.


Resources:

- make your own journal (https://www.thecountrychiccottage.net/kids-craft-make-your-own-journal/).

- if you, or your family, have something special that belonged to a relative draw a picture, or write a description, of the item. Is there a special story that goes along with the item?

- how do you define "a hero"? Draw an image or write a description of someone you think is a hero.

- read Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank's Diary by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Jordi Solano and The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by McCarty. How are they similar? How are they different?


- check out the wonderful teachers guide (https://barbaralowell.com/wp-content/uploads/Behind-the-Bookcase-Guide.pdf)


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Barbara Lowell (here).


This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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