I first read The Diary of Anne Frank in eighth grade. I suspect that’s the average age people read it in school, but I read it on my own. I’m not saying this to brag. I was simply a voracious reader who went to a truly awful junior high. During seventh and eighth grade, the teachers managed to not teach a single novel. Well, they taught abridged works (I maintain this does not count), but most of our our class time was spent on grammar.
At the end of eighth grade, when we were supposed to be learning about World War II, they had us practicing swing dance in the gym (this being the swing dancing craze of the late 1990s, and hey, swing dancing was popular during the ’40s so I suppose it’s somewhat justifiable…)
And in lieu of actually learning about anti-Semitism, Nazism and Anne Frank’s life, by, um, actually reading her diary, we did a lot of timelines about her life and Nazi Germany. Oh, and my teacher pronounced the “t” at the end of Margot Frank’s name.
So my mom took me to Annie’s Book Stop, the one bookstore in Rutland, VT, and actually a pretty good one, and we bought The Diary of Anne Frank. I read it, and, even though I obviously knew how it ended, I fervently hoped Anne would somehow escape. (I also fervently hope that isn’t a spoiler.)
Since it was first published, The Diary of Anne Frank has been adapted many times for movies in various countries and languages. Now, it’s getting the graphic novel treatment. According to Bust.com, “The Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam has launched the biography — with author Sid Jacobson and illustrator Ernie Colón — as a way to get a wider audience (AKA teenagers who won’t pick up anything without pictures or web links) to read the diary, mainly in an educational setting.”
The press around the new graphic novel is largely neutral or positive, although message boards are more charged, with people complaining about “kids these days” not reading to accusations of blasphemy (have they never heard of Maus?) to idiots taking a break from anti-government manifesto-writing/rifle-polishing to cast doubt on the original diary’s authenticity as well as that of the Holocaust… or maybe these trolls are actually Mel Gibson getting back to his anti-Semitic roots in between threatening his baby mama.
I think a graphic treatment of Anne Frank’s short but meaningful life makes sense. Look at the success of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, about, respectively, the Holocaust and Islamic Revolution. And while some readers may be “over” this kind of literary-historic treatment, others continue to be moved by these works and are inspired to keep learning about the Shoah and Iran.
Whatever medium gets students learning is, to quote Martha Stewart, “a good thing.” Never Forget Anne!