Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: In 1942, thirteen year old Anne, her family and four others move into a “Secret Annex” during the Nazi occupation of Holland. During these two and a half years of hiding, Anne writes an account of being a Jew during World War II, growing up, the challenges of living in a confined space and maintaining relationships with the other members of the annex. Her love of writing and books is evident throughout her diary entries. Sadly, Anne and the others were eventually discovered and taken to a concentration camp. Although Anne’s young life was cut short, we get a good portrait of Anne and the troubled time she lived in. Her memory lives on through the words of her diary.
Recommendation: Although the grade equivalent of this book is for 6th grade on up, I recommended the guiding reading of this book for students who are in grades 7 to 9. The severity of Anne’s plight may be disturbing for younger readers. Also, sixth graders may have a difficulty with the text complexity of the book even with guidance.
The Book Thief: The story begins in 1939 when young Liesel picks up The Grave Diggers Handbook at her little brother’s graveside funeral. Soon after, she is taken in by foster parents and thrown into the world of Nazi Germany. In this new world, she befriends blonde-haired, blue-eyed Rudy and becomes schooled in the ways of the Nazi party. She also learns how to read and becomes obsessed with books. This love of words eventually leads her to steal books from Nazi book burnings as well as the mayor’s wife’s personal library. This is one way she rejects Nazi control. Furthermore, both her and her family’s reservations about the party’s views are especially evident when her foster parents decide to hide a young Jewish man in their basement. Liesel, not surprisingly, connects with this young man through words. And words ultimately save Liesel’s life.
Recommendation: Although the book’s Lexile measure indicates the book is appropriate for grades 3 to 4, this is not the case. There are some graphic scenes in the book that elementary children are not mature enough to handle. Furthermore, the text is narrated by Death, which could confuse younger readers. With teacher guidance, this book is ideal for grades 8 to 10.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: Holocaust; World War II; Family Relations; Friendship; Biographies
The Book Thief: Holocaust, Books, Writing; Family Relations; Friendship; Death; Nazi Germany; World War II
Quantitative Reading Level:
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: Lexile Measure: 1080, Grade Level Equivalent: 6-10
The Book Thief: Lexile Measure: 730, Grade Level Equivalent: 3 -4
Qualitative Reading Analysis: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Organization/Format: This edition of Anne Frank’s diary is 304 pages. It contains a foreword by Eleanor Roosevelt as well as photos of Anne and the “Secret Annex”. It also has pictures of her original diary entries that were written in Dutch. These are the only visuals in the book. Next, are two and a half years of diary entries. Most of the entries begin with the greeting, “Hello, Kitty”. This is the name Anne gave her diary. The book ends with an afterword about the Holocaust and the events that led up to it.
Language Demands: The language demands this book requires may be a challenge to some students.Figurative language is occasionally used. Since the book was written in the early 1940s, some of Anne’s word choice may be different from what students are used to. The overall tone of Anne’s words are optimistic with bouts of anger, depression and humor. She has the mood swings of a typical teenaged girl. Her optimism shines in a diary entry she made on July 14, 1944. She writes, “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
Knowledge Demands: Knowledge of World War II, especially the plight of the Jews during this time is needed. Teachers should provide students with background about the Holocaust.
Meaning/Purpose: Survival, prejudice, growing up and having compassion for others are some of the themes found in this book. Through this book we get an intimate glimpse about what it was like to be a Jew in hiding during this horrific time. We also get an account of the daily struggles of just being a teenager. Teens, of course, will have a connection with Anne because of her openness and transparency during this time.
Qualitative Reading Analysis: The Book Thief
Organization/Format: The Book Thief is 592 pages long. It contains a prologue, 10 parts and an epilogue. Each part is further divided into chapters. There is a lot of bolded text as well as bullet points throughout the book. There are also a few stories included within the text. These include very rough illustrations.
Language Demands: There is quite a bit of figurative language in this book. Also, there is a lot of creative language usage. Students may need help understanding these literary techniques. Furthermore, the story is narrated by Death himself. Death is a perfect narrator for the somber mood in the text. For example, on the first page of the book Death says, “Here is a small fact. You are going to die.” A little further on the page he asks a question about the aforementioned fact, “Does this worry you? I urge you-don’t be afraid. I’m nothing if not fair”. Finally, German words are sprinkled throughout the text.
Knowledge Demands: Students need background knowledge of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany and World War II. An understanding of foster parents would be helpful as well.
Meaning/Purpose: The themes I noticed are death resiliency, compassion and the value of words. Death is the most noticeable in times of war. Yet, some people overcome it and show resiliency, at least for a time. With war also comes the opportunity for people to show compassion. Liesel’s foster dad continuously shows this trait. Finally, words are power. They provide comfort in a time of need.
Content/Subject Area & Standards:
Ninth and Tenth Grade English Language Arts (Missouri Learning Standards)
RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
RL.9-10.6 Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.
RL.9-10.9 Compare and contrast one author’s presentation of events with that of another (e.g., a memoir written by and a biography on the same person).
World History (Missouri Learning Standards)
B. Explain connections between historical context and peoples’ perspectives at the time in world history.
E. Analyze the causes and consequences of a specific problem in world history post c. 1450 as well as the challenges and opportunities faced by those trying to address the problem.
C. Predict the consequences which can occur when institutions fail to meet the needs of individuals and groups.
B. Analyze the style and function of a leader to determine his/her impact on a governmental system.
C. Assess changing ideas of class, ethnicity, race, gender, and age to affect a person’s roles in society and social institutions.
A. Analyze causes and patterns of human rights violations and genocide and suggest resolutions for current and future conflicts.
Suggestions: Use this book pairing in a 9th grade English class as a springboard for discussing prejudice and human rights. The books would also be appropriate for a world history class. It would bring to life the Holocaust and the issues surrounding it. As well as the importance of using primary resources during historical research. Consider talking about how both books show the power of words through Anne and Liesel. Use this to discuss the importance of communication in today’s world. Finally, compare and contrast Anne and Liesel. How are they alike? How are they different? Which character can the students identify with the most and why?
Links to Supporting Content:
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect-This site contains lesson plans, professional development opportunities, information for traveling exhibits, a student essay contest and more.
The Anne Frank House– This is the website for the “Secret Annex” Anne stayed in. The house is now a museum in Amsterdam.
The Book Thief Webquest– This webquest provides a great way for high school students to work independently after reading The Book Thief. The webquest premise is for students to separate fact from fiction in a historical novel.
Teach with Movies: The Book Thief– This site contains extensive lesson ideas on how to integrate Zusak’s novel with the movie.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum– This site based out of the museum in Washington D.C. has a wealth of information about the Holocaust. Includes teacher resources as well as information about how genocide is happening today.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl:
- YALSA Best Books for Young Adults (Although the actually diary only received one award, the play adaptation of the book received many awards.)
The Book Thief:
- 2006: Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (South East Asia & South Pacific)
- 2006: School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
- 2006: Daniel Elliott Peace Award
- 2006: Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year
- 2006: National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
- 2006: Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
- 2007: Michael L. Printz Honor Book
- 2007: Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature