Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window

Jeff Gottesfeld
Illustrator:  Peter McCarty 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2016   ISBN: 978-0385753975

The tree lived in a courtyard near a city canal. When she was small the courtyard was her world, but when she grew tall enough to stretch above the roofs of the homes, warehouses, and factories she saw the city. Up she grew in the peaceful city until one day war came and the peace was shattered.

During the first winter of the war a new owner bought one of the factories. He had a wife and two daughters. The tree “loved the sight” of the younger daughter, who was lively and who loved to write sitting next to the kitchen window.

One day the tree saw that the girl and her family had moved to the factory annex. They were joined by a father, a mother and a boy. Then another man joined the group. The girl and her father covered the main windows of the annex with ragged curtains, but the window in the attic was not covered and there the girl would sit and write in her diary.

The girl never came outside and over time she grew pale and thin. Sadness was the norm for her until, in the fourth winter of the war, the girl and the boy living in the annex grew close. Love between them blossomed, as did the flowers on the tree that spring.

Then one day men in uniforms come to the annex and the girl and the rest of the people who lived with her were taken away, never to return.

This remarkable book tells the story of Anne Frank as ‘witnessed’ by the horse chestnut tree that stood in front of the building where Anne lived during the war years. The chestnut tree really did exist and Anne described it in her famous diary several times. For 172 years the tree stood there in Amsterdam until it’s time came to a close in 2010, but the tree, just like young Anne Frank “lives on.”