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Searching for Anne Frank: Letters from Amsterdam to Iowa

Overview

New insight into the girl whose diary changed the world
Few people know that Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, had pen pals in the United States: Juanita and Betty Wagner, of Danville, Iowa. Although the girls corresponded only briefly, their letters capture a poignant moment in Anne's life, before the Nazis arrived. Through interviews with people who knew Anne, Margot, Juanita, Betty, and their friends, author Susan Goldman Rubin skillfully contrasts the realities of life in rural America and urban Holland ...
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Overview

New insight into the girl whose diary changed the world
Few people know that Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, had pen pals in the United States: Juanita and Betty Wagner, of Danville, Iowa. Although the girls corresponded only briefly, their letters capture a poignant moment in Anne's life, before the Nazis arrived. Through interviews with people who knew Anne, Margot, Juanita, Betty, and their friends, author Susan Goldman Rubin skillfully contrasts the realities of life in rural America and urban Holland through the duration of World War II. Packed with firsthand reports, photographs (many never before published), and intriguing new information, Searching for Anne Frank provides a vivid look at lives torn apart by war—a subject that has great relevance for today's readers.

Author Bio: Susan Goldman Rubin is the author of many biographies for young people, most recently Degas and the Dance, an ALA Notable Book. Her biography of Margaret Bourke-White was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children. She lives in Malibu, CA.

Postcards underscore the contrast between Anne's life in Amsterdam and her pen pals' lives in America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Although the promise of newly rediscovered correspondence from Anne Frank can hardly fail to generate excitement, the "letters" here (held since 1988 by the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance) are likely to disappoint. The correspondence consists of one letter each from Anne and her sister, Margot, to their new American pen pals (arranged through Anne's school), plus a postcard with Anne's comments about bridges and canals in Amsterdam, and the letters are understandably impersonal. Rubin (Degas and the Dance) even suggests, without explanation, that the girls' father may have had a hand in them: "It is believed that Anne's first draft was in Dutch, and then her father, Otto Frank, translated the words and had her redo the letter in English." The rest of the book revisits previously available information about the Franks, juxtaposed with the wartime experiences of the Frank girls' erstwhile pen pals, the sisters Juanita and Betty Wagner, from Danville, Iowa. Unfortunately, the book overdramatizes the connection between the Franks and the Wagners. For example, Rubin writes that the Wagner girls immediately replied to the letters reproduced here (dated April 27 and April 29, 1940), then "waited and waited" for responses and "wondered why" they heard nothing-even though by mid-May they knew, from their teacher, that Germany had invaded Holland and cut off communication. Abundant visuals include photos, movie stills and ephemera. Like the text, however, the contrast between the illustrations of wartime Holland and those of homefront America suggests a chasm more than a link. Ages 10-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
The life of Anne Frank from the fall of 1939 is set in counterpoint with the lives of sisters Betty and Juanita Wagner of Danville, Iowa. Juanita wrote a pen-pal letter to Anne in Holland in early 1940, receiving two replies in English, one of which still exists. Anne's sister, Margot, also wrote a letter to Betty, including photographs and postcards. In May, the Nazis invaded Holland, and there were no further letters. The author takes these letters as a starting point to juxtapose the lives of Betty and Juanita with Anne's recorded life. The Wagners had no way of knowing that Anne was Jewish, and they had limited knowledge of the war in Europe. Their lives changed rapidly as the war progressed and as they watched their friends leave for the war and tried to follow what was happening. The book alternates chapters that follow Anne's life with those tracing the experiences of the sisters as they continued with school and found jobs. After the war, the Wagners wrote again and received a response from Anne's father, Otto, who told them of his daughter's fate. The book continues with Otto's discovery of Anne's diary, his handling of the memoir, and the reactions of Betty and Juanita when the book and movie were released in the United States. In the late 1980s, Betty made public her possession of the original letters, now part of the Wiesenthal collection. The parallel approach enables readers to examine individual lives affected by the same world events. A perfect fit for a library's Holocaust collection, this book can also lead to a similar examination of other periods in history. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J S (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined asgrades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Abrams, 144p, Morrow
School Library Journal
Goldman explores the effects of World War II on America and the Netherlands through the letters of two pen pals. Although Juanita Wagner of Danville, IA exchanged letters with Anne Frank of Amsterdam only a few times, the author assumes the continuation of their friendship. Students will be drawn to this compelling story. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1939, a schoolgirl in Iowa picked a name from a list of children in Holland to be her pen pal; she chose Anne Frank. A cache of correspondence from the girl whose Diary is one of the most famous books of all time would be big news indeed; in fact, Anne sent only one letter. Dated April 29, 1940, the letter gives some facts about Anne's school and her postcard collection. Nevertheless, Rubin uses this letter as a vehicle for telling Anne's story alongside Juanita Wagner's wartime experiences. There is much speculation about whether Anne was thinking about her pen pal: a quote from Anne's diary that she stuffed some old letters into her schoolbag to take with her to the Annex raises the question: "Were the 'old letters' from her pen-pals in Iowa?" Amazingly, when Juanita wrote to Anne after the war, the letter reached Otto Frank, who responded with a long handwritten letter about Anne's capture and death. This letter did not survive. Every bit of information about the time Anne spent in the concentration camp before her death, every photograph-and there are some new ones here-fascinates. However, the bland correspondence, if one can call it that, provides a weak premise for another book about Anne Frank. (Nonfiction. 11+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810945142
  • Publisher: Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2003
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.37 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Iowa, 1939-1940 6
2 Amsterdam, 1940 16
3 Iowa, 1940 24
4 Amsterdam, 1940-1941 30
5 Iowa, 1941 38
6 Amsterdam, September 1941-July 1942 44
7 Iowa, 1942-1943 52
8 Amsterdam, 1942 60
9 Amsterdam, 1942-1944 68
10 Iowa, 1943-1944 74
11 Holland and Poland, 1944-1945 80
12 Germany, 1944-1945 88
13 Iowa and Illinois, 1945 92
14 Amsterdam, 1945 96
15 Amsterdam, 1945-1956 100
16 California and Iowa, 1956-1957 110
17 Amsterdam, 1956-1986 112
18 California, 1959-Present 118
Epilogue 124
Postscript 128
Acknowledgments 131
References and Resources 135
Illustrations Credits 140
Index 142
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