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As long as I can remember I’ve had a great interest to learn about the Holocaust. I think it started when I was a young girl and I learned my Jewish grandfather fought in World War II in Europe. He was on the front lines of combat, where he was wounded by shrapnel, and he also wrote and published a weekly newspaper for the army while at war. 

He told my family a story about how at the end of the war his regiment commander had his regiment march the German civilians past the concentration camps. His commander wanted them to all bear witness, so no one could deny what happened in the concentration camps. They wanted what happened to never be forgotten and never be repeated. 

This is a picture of my grandparents shortly after they were married, along with my grandfather’s Bronze Star and Purple Heart

My grandfather earned several honors for fighting in the war including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. I am still so honored by and grateful for his service. He has always been one of my biggest heroes. I guess to honor him in my own way, I was dedicated to learning all I could about the Holocaust while growing up. I even took an honors course dedicated to the Holocaust in college. 

Of course, in my studies I have learned about Anne Frank and have admired her courage and optimism. I feel like Anne’s story will always be relevant for kids to read and learn. I was so excited when I found out Anne Frank would have her own book as part of the Ordinary People Change the World book series by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 

I was gifted a copy of I am Anne Frank, along with the other new release in the series I am Benjamin Franklin. I also had the opportunity to interview the Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos about the books. I hope you enjoy reading my interview with Brad and Chris below, following my book review. 

Book Overview:

I am Anne Frank tells young readers the life story of Anne Frank. In the book we learn about how her sister made fun of her big ears since she was born, and about her normal childhood — until her family fled Germany to escape the Nazis. She went to school in Amsterdam where she loved writing, until Jews started to be treated differently and eventually shunned and banned there too. That’s when her family had to go into hiding.

The book tells us how she was given a diary for her birthday shortly before they went into hiding, and she used her diary to document her time in hiding. She wrote about her daily life and also about hope. The book highlights how she remained positive and hopeful about the future. 

My Book Review: 

I loved how Anne’s story was told in such a positive way in I am Ann Frank. There is a lot to be sad about when you learn of Anne’s story, but ultimately it is important to learn from her optimism. This book emphasized how Anne believed the world was a good place and she believed people were good. Even while living in hiding and knowing Jews across Europe were being persecuted, she believed there was good in the world. And she was right. 

Before reading this book to my kids I had never had any conversations with them about the Holocaust. My son asked me a lot of questions about it, but I’m glad we opened the conversation. I think it’s important for my kids to know that people of different backgrounds have not always been treated fairly, and sadly, it’s something that is still happening today. The Holocaust was an extreme example of this, but today there are still incidents of anti-semitism and racial discrimination in our country. 

I liked how this book encourages kids to look beyond differences and division and see the good in the world. Anne was truly a light in the world, and we are lucky to be able to continue to learn from her. 

STEAM Concepts Learned: 

I think Anne Frank’s STEAM contributions can be summarized by this quote from the book:

“Throughout your life, you’ll find people who need help. Be a helper. Be the one who does the right thing. When you see something that’s unfair, do not be silent.”

I am Anne Frank by Brad Meltzer

This is advice that will serve all kids well as they grow up and in future careers in STEAM fields. Always be willing to help. And when someone is treated unfairly (for example, many women feel they are treated unfairly in STEM fields), speak up and help spark change. 

Interview with Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos

Engineering Emily (EE): I’m sure many aspiring writers and illustrators see you both as Heroes. Is writing something you always wanted to do Brad, and is illustrating something you always wanted to do Chris? How old were you when you started writing/drawing?

Brad Meltzer (BM): My ninth grade English teacher changed my life with three words: “You can write.”  When she couldn’t get me transferred into the honors class, she said, “You’re going to sit in the corner for the entire year and ignore everything I do on the blackboard. You’re going to do honors work instead.” She was really saying ‘you’re going to thank me later,’ and a decade later when my first book came out, I went back to that classroom, knocked on her door and said, ‘I wrote this book, The Tenth Justice, and it’s for you.’ And I gave her my first published book and she started crying. I said, ‘Why are you crying?’ She said, ‘I was going to retire this year because I didn’t think I was having an impact anymore.’

Christopher Eliopoulos (CE): I’ve always drawn. I don’t remember a time I wasn’t. But I was drawn to cartoons. It started when I red my first collection of the Peanuts comic strip at 5. From then on, I was hooked.

EE: I feel you told Anne’s story in such a beautiful way. The book made me cry while I was reading it because her story is such a sad one, but I somehow felt hopeful and so inspired by her rather than sorry for her circumstances. How did you decide to tell her story in this uplifting way?

BM: These books have always been for my own kids – to give them better heroes and arm them with lessons of resilience and compassion. Today, they need them more than ever. Look around. The rise of Anti-Semitism…the way religious, ethnic and racial minorities are regularly targeted…it’s impossible to ignore – and I want my kids to see and find strength from Anne Frank’s lessons. As it says in the book: 

You can always find light in the darkest places. That’s what hope is.
It’s a fire within you.
You decide when to light it. 
And when it burns bright…
Nothing can put it out.

In her honor, we knew the only way to fight back is with hope.

CE: When we decided to do her story, Brad said he wanted it to be uplifting. Using her famous quote, “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Was our starting point. On my end, I tried to give her a look of weariness, but also hope. 

EE: What characteristic of Anne Frank do you most hope your kids will emulate?

BM: Hope. Hope. Hope. It’s a scary world right now – especially for our kids. We’re in an age of anxiety. We’re all scared. But the only way through is with hope. 

CE: Determination and positivity. I can’t imagine being stuck in that small space, scared to death every day and still being able to believe the world is good. She did. Besides kids, I hope it’s something I can emulate as well.

To read more of my interview with Brad and Chris, please see my I am Benjamin Franklin blog post

It was my honor to get to share this inspiring book with you. Anne Frank will always hold a special place in my heart. I highly recommend this book to teach kids about hope and kindness.

If you are interested in purchasing I am Anne Frank, it is now available, along with the other new release from this series, I am Benjamin Franklin, on Amazon: here is a link to I am Anne Frank and here is a link to I am Benjamin Franklin

Here is a link to my review of I am Benjamin Franklin, please head over to that post to learn about this great STEAM book too! 


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