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BOOKS: Short book about Anne Frank packs a powerful punch

“Anne Frank’s Chesnut Tree” is an easy reader about the life of one of the most well-known Holocaust victims. (Submitted photo)

By Jean Patrick Republic Book Columnist

A girl sits on the dusty floor of an attic. She looks through a window at the bare branches of a chestnut tree that sparkles with dew.

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She thinks, “As long as this exists … how can I be sad?”

The girl is Anne Frank. She has not been outside for 597 days.

This is the opening scene of “Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree,” an easy-reader about the life of Anne Frank.

Following the chestnut tree beginning, the story flashes back to Anne’s early life, the invasion of the Nazis and her family’s escape to the house where they would hide in the Secret Annex.

Not until the middle of the book — in the midst of Anne’s fear and frustration — does the chestnut tree appear again. Anne climbs to the attic where she can see the branches from a window. Seeing the tree calms her and helps her feel brave.

Author Jane Kohuth shows how the tree and nature become a focal point in Anne’s life. In fact, the tree helps Anne feel that God has not left her.

Kohuth also shows how nature becomes an important theme in the stories she writes and in her diary entries. As Anne writes in her diary, “I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.”

In this short book, author Jane Kohuth manages to include so much: the history of the war, the persecution of the Jews, diagrams of the Secret Annex and even the grim reality of Anne’s future.

But the over-riding feeling is one of hope.

Kohuth includes Anne’s aspirations to be a writer, the survival of her diary, and most of all the “survival” of the tree.

Subtly, Kohuth reveals how the chestnut tree parallels Anne’s life.

Although the tree died in 2010, its life continued as people collected the chestnuts and grew saplings.

It’s rare that an easy-reader can provide such depth of meaning. Yet this book succeeds. “Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree” is a true gem.

“Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree.” By Jane Kohuth. Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. Step into Reading No. 3. Random House, 2013. 48 pp.