#DutchKidLit and The Canon of the Netherlands, Part 1 – Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl

Image: Canonslinger 2020 wall chart.

The Canon of the Netherlands is a huge cultural project that tells a story about the historical and cultural development of the Netherlands from ± 5500 BC to present. The Canon was first conceived in 2006 and was recently updated in June 2020. It is now a 50-window timeline using an interactive sling formation with key events, innovations, people, and artifacts in Dutch history carefully chosen and infused with primary and secondary source materials that are used to teach history to children in Dutch schools. The recent updates removed some original individuals and information to focus on more diverse perspectives, “opening the windows” to a more inclusive view of Dutch history by adding important colonial figures including Suranimese author and civil rights activist Anton de Kom. And out of those 50 windows into Dutch history, two are dedicated to the impactful, deeply beloved Dutch kid lit authors, Anne Frank and Annie M.G. Schmidt:

Image: Canonslinger 2020 wall chart detail with #DutchKidLit annotations added by Kim Tyo-Dickerson.

As one of the most influential books in the history of world children’s literature in translation, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, translated into English for the first time in 1947 from the original Dutch by Barbara Mooyaart-Doubleday, not only continues to hold significant cultural relevance for the Netherlands and its national history, but also it continues to be adapted, interpreted, and translated into media that allow Frank’s story to be told and understood in innovative ways by both new and returning readers worldwide. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, established in 1957 in collaboration with Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father, is a key driver in this, “an independent non-profit organization that manages and opens up Anne Frank’s hiding place and brings Anne’s life story to worldwide attention.” The Anne Frank House has created international partnership sites in Berlin, Germany, London, England, Buenos Aires, Argentina and most recently at the University of South Carolina in the United States, the only site in North America.

In tireless dedication to the power The Diary has to inspire other young people to fight against antisemitism, racism, discrimination, and prejudice everywhere, the Anne Frank House has invested in an educational program called Stories that Move, a free toolbox that was developed with support from teachers and students at my current school, the International School of Amsterdam, which can be used to help students think critically about diversity and discrimination through exploring their own stories: “The teaching material focuses on racism, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against Roma and Sinti, Muslims and LGBT people. This inclusive approach offers room for every story.”

The Anne Frank House has also created and produced a gripping and ultimately heart-breaking YouTube series, the Anne Frank Video Diary where Anne’s life and diary entries are re-imagined in startling intimacy by replacing Anne’s written diary with a camera. Episodes for Season 2, Anne Frank Video Diary – After the Arrest were just released in August 2021: “What Happened after the arrest? Anne Frank Tells Her Story.” The first and second series are available in Dutch, with subtitles in German, English, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. I continue to be haunted by the eyes and voice of actress Luna Cruz Perez who portrays Anne, as well as the gorgeous production value of the series, the haunting music and sets are mesmerizing. Even though we know Anne’s story, we find new ways to think about her life, art, resilience, relationships, cruel betrayals and legacy of resistance:

There have also been two official graphic novel adaptations and interpretations of Frank’s life, one a graphic biography and, most recently, a graphic novel adaptation of her diary.

The first graphic novel treatment of Frank’s life to be approved by the Anne Frank House, Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography, was created through a partnership between the Anne Frank House and the creative team of Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón who had earlier adapted and illustrated the best-selling The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation in the United States. Frank’s graphic biography was first published in Dutch and from the outset planned to be made available at the Anne Frank House in five languages: in the Netherlands by Uitgeverij L, in Great-Britain, Australia, and then the US, Canada and several English-language countries by Macmillan/ Hill and Wang (view the Teacher’s Guide here), in Germany by Carlsen Verlag translated by Kai Wilksen, in France by Les Editions Belin translated by Paul Simon Bouffartigue, in Italy by Rizzoli/Lizard and in Spain by Norma (I have included translator names when I could locate them). The graphic biography was written with key texts and illustrated with direct connections to photographs held by the Anne Frank House collection. The Anne Frank Foundation director at the time, Hans Westra, described the process of creating this work: “Sid Jacobson wrote the story, working closely with the Anne Frank Foundation. We handed over all the information we had about the two years in hiding, the family and Anne herself to the writer. Then, Ernie Colón did the illustrations, largely based on historical photographs in our possession.”

As a result of the careful reading and consideration of primary source texts and images, the biography comes alive depicting a thorough chronology of Anne’s life including selected historical events that impacted her family and their survival, as well as the return of her father Otto, who was the only Annex survivor, and the subsequent decision to find a publisher for Anne’s diary, ultimately leading to the creation of the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam.

The Anne Frank House wants to make Anne Frank’s life story accessible to the widest possible audience. Comics are an appealing format for reaching young people, as well as adults. That is why the Anne Frank House decided to have a graphic novel made about the life of Anne Frank.

Canon von Nederland, “Graphishe Biografie Anne Frank”

There is also an animated book trailer for the biography, perfect for sharing with students in library or classroom lessons:

This biography is highly recommended for readers ages 14 and up who have more context about the Holocaust and the plight of Jews during the Second World War, as well as sharing a growing awareness of the struggles of adolescence that every new teenager has at some point in their lives. It is important for readers, parents, teachers, and librarians to understand that just because Frank’s biography is in comics format, it is not a simplified story in terms of themes and contexts. It remains a deeply moving and sophisticated life story, and this is nonfiction graphic narrative storytelling at its best, with a more traditional line and palette to the artwork, evoking a 1940s feel, and realistic pacing and panels. It shares important insights into Anne’s frustrations with adults and her anxieties about the war, her relationship with her mother in particular, a pressure-cooker situation heightened almost to the breaking point by claustrophobic proximity not only to Anne’s father, mother, and older sister Margo, whose seeming perfection grates on Anne, but also the Van Pels family, whose constant interference in Anne’s life, complicated by Anne’s close relationship with their son Peter, added a further level of stress to a terrifying situation.

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography
Written by by Sid Jacobson, Ernie Colón
Hill and Wang
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 9780809026852
160 Pages

You can buy a copy of Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography here.

The second graphic novel nonfiction adaptation, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, was authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel, Switzerland, and is a faithful interpretation of the diary itself. Illustrated by David Polonsky and adapted by Ari Folman, this version was also created to reach young readers in a format that is engaging for a new generation meeting Anne for the first time. This text also offers every reader, even those who know her diary and story well, to learn something new, feel something fresh, continue their fascination with Frank’s determination to write and re-write her diary, engaging in her writer’s craft all while knowing that it might survive the war and share witness to her experiences in hiding.

With quotations throughout directly from the definitive edition of the diary, the art and panels glow with illustrations and imaginative leaps that bring Anne’s voice, insights, joys and sorrows to life, allowing her fantasies, comic observations, and often fearful, volatile emotions to fill the panels:

Image: “The Diary Ends Here” from Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, illustration by David Polonsky

There is also a publisher-created book trailer for sharing with students ages 14 and up:

This post may contain affiliate links that earn Global Literature in Libraries Initiative a commission at no extra cost to you.

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation
by Ari Folman (adapter), David Polonsky (Illustrator), Anne Frank (Original text)
Pantheon Books
ISBN: 9781101871799

You can buy a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation here.

Stay tuned for the second part of this post, “#DutchKidLit and The Canon of the Netherlands, Part 2: Annie M. G. Schmidt”, where I Iwill share recommended books from arguably the most famous Dutch children’s author, including titles featuring the rambunctious, irrepressible Dutch pre-schoolers Jip and Janneke!

This post may contain affiliate links that earn Global Literature in Libraries Initiative a commission at no extra cost to you.

Kim Tyo-Dickerson, seen here visiting the Kinderboekenmuseum/Children’s Book Museum in The Hague, is the Upper School Librarian and Head of Libraries at the International School of Amsterdam. Kim has a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, a Master of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She is one of the founding members of the grassroots professional learning project International Teacher Librarians Lead (inTLlead) and is committed to world libraries, literatures, and literacies. Originally from United States, she has lived on three continents and worked in international school libraries for 16 years in both Europe and Africa. Kim’s languages include English, German, and Dutch. You can follow her on Twitter @kimtyodickerson.

2 thoughts on “#DutchKidLit and The Canon of the Netherlands, Part 1 – Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl

  1. Less famous but not less important in the Dutch-Jewish Resistance Literature is “An Interrupted Life: the Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943”.


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