Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon
Seriously, I’d skip this one entirely if I were you. I knew I couldn’t really read a book about the Holocaust without getting bummed out and soul search-y.
While I appreciate the idea behind turning Anne Franks’s life into a graphic novel to make it more accessible to kids, I’m not really sure it was a good idea at the end of it all. First of all, biographies don’t really make good picture stories. There’s a lot of who married who and what they do at work and where they grew up but those aren’t really great for illustrations. I know that I don’t read much nonfiction, and if it’s all like this, I see why. Facts and dates, even quotes kind of sterilize the story, taking away the narrative drive and lacking real emotion. I suppose you don’t need to write in real emotion when you’re writing the story of a girl who was brutally murdered, along with millions of others, but still.
One thing I really did like about the pictures though is that they didn’t PG it up. I was probably more upset by the images of the camps than most kids would be, but they are horrifying. Which I think is brave of the authors, since we seem to have this weird feeling that kids can hear about terrible things, but not see them.
But I guess what made me most sad was the way we teach history. We desperately want things to make sense, we want to understand our past and so, when something as earth shattering as the Holocaust happens, we try to find meaning. We want to teach ourselves that this kind of atrocity couldn’t ever happen again. This book supports this narrative. It has a clear agenda. It’s a lesson in humanity.
My grade five teacher read us Anne Frank. I remember swearing very genuinely to the ghost of this girl I’d never know that we would never let anything like this happen again. Even though it was a heart breaking story, at the end of it there was some hope. Now I’m an adult and I don’t want to make promises like that. I’ve come to wonder if morality, compassion and empathy aren’t, as we fervently wish, at the core of human experience. Instead I’m afraid that they are luxuries and privileges and therefore the first things to be scarified when things get harder. Now I think teaching history to kids like that is simplistic, unrealistic and probably not very effective.
We do need to remember the horrible things that happen, but if that’s all we do, try to preserve those horrors to remind us of our mistakes, we’re not looking at what caused them, not really. So I guess I’d rather we find a new way to show our past to our kids. I think we need to acknowledge that sometimes history doesn’t make sense, that good people do bad things and bad people do good things and holding up one tragic life as a reminder of our own destructive power probably won’t change anything.
No matter how much we want it to.
See. Really depressing.
But for the record, it does explain why superheroes are so appealing.
Last movie I watched: Justice League: Doom. My favourite part is that Batman’s hobbies include planning to take out all his friends.
Last TV episode I watched: One of the most beautiful Doctor Who episodes ever.