There are picture books that make us laugh, and picture books that teach us our letters or numbers. There are picture books that wow us with amazing artwork, and picture books that spark our imagination with their innovative storytelling. All of these enrich our lives in different ways. Here is a picture book that does a lot for the reader. It teaches us, amazes us, inspires us, and might make us sad but hopeful.
We are all probably familiar with the story of Anne Frank, but I was not aware of the fact that the tree that grew outside the building where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis was famous. Cuttings from this tree have been planted all over the world in places where tragedies have happened as a symbol of peace and hope.
The Tree in The Courtyard is told from the perspective of Anne's tree. The tree loves Anne and her family and watches as they come and go from their home, as they play in its branches, and the tree looks inside their windows, watching them live their lives. One day, the tree is confused because the family doesn't come out of their house. Another day passes, and another. Planes and bombs and soldiers come, but the family does not come out. The tree spots Anne looking out of the attic window, and the tree is there the day the family is discovered and taken away.
This is such a beautiful take on Anne Frank's story. Explaining the atrocities of the Nazis' treatment of the Jewish people and the horror of war is hard. It's not easy or fun, but it's a valuable lesson. I feel like this book is an age-appropriate conversation starter for elementary school kids. The sepia colored illustrations are a wonderful partner in telling the story. This story is sad, but it ends on a note of hope. Even when the tree falls in a storm, it lives on.
What do you think? Have your kids read the Diary of Anne Frank? Do you ever use books to help teach difficult subjects?