Review: The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank by Kate Scott, illustrated by Anka Rega

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz

Countless books have been written about Anne Frank, each vying for a different angle on the life of World War II’s most famous diarist. It’s difficult for any text to compare to Anne’s own words about her life as a teenager hiding from the Nazis. But not all children are old enough or mature enough to wrestle with the original text. With The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank, author Kate Scott and illustrator Anka Rega offer a graphic biography of Frank for middle grade readers. The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank attempts to cover a lot of previously trodden ground in its 66 pages, with mixed results.

The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank portions out its text in short, digestible blocks. Each page contains a brief paragraph, often presented in multiple fonts. The format is visually pleasing and will be comfortable for middle grade readers who are used to taking in chunks of information quickly. Inspirational quotes from Anne are sprinkled throughout the book, and many unfamiliar terms are defined right on the page. The problem with the format is that crucial content is covered in a perfunctory manner, with little depth and explanation. Middle grade kids need more than the minimum to begin to understand this complex and tragic time in history. To its credit, the book does touch on a few topics that would interest its intended audience of middle grade readers, such as the food that the people in the annex ate and times when they experienced some joy.

The quick-take format makes The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank a brisk read. One of the book’s strengths is its introduction of challenging vocabulary, such as rationing and genocide. Historical details are authentic and accurate, if familiar. Any book about Anne Frank inherently contains Jewish content. But while Scott makes it clear that Anne and her family went into hiding because they were Jewish, and the book mentions the danger posed by the Nazis to Jews in the secret annex and beyond, the author barely refers to Judaism in the second half of the book. Did Anne and the people in the annex observe Jewish holidays? Did they read or study Torah while in hiding? How important was Judaism in Anne’s life in the annex? There is room on the page for more information than is offered. The Extraordinary Life of Anne Frank is a fine effort, but there are some missed opportunities here.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Stacy Nockowitz is a middle school librarian and former language arts teacher. Stacy received her Bachelor’s Degree from Brandeis University and holds Master's Degrees from Columbia University Teachers College and Kent State University. She is also an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle grade novel, THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER, will be published by Kar-Ben in the fall of 2022.