I first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl in the school summer holidays when I was eight years old. My mum had been helping out a friend of hers who was disabled (mum used to go and help her clean the house, and she’d make her lunch and anything else she needed). So in the school holidays mum used to take my younger brother and me with her. We were allowed to take a couple of quiet toys with us (in my case books, obviously!) and we had to sit quietly in a room together while mum got her jobs done.
As I’ve said in my previous Bookish Memories post (Link here) my choice of books was never censored. On the condition that I looked after the books properly, I was allowed to choose any book I wanted from my parents’ study. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young girl caught my eye simply because it was the diary of a young girl and I was a young girl so there was no way I wasn’t going to want to read it. I had no concept of what the book was about at the time, I was only eight. My mum was happy for me to read the book and, as she always did when I picked up a grown-up book, she just made sure I knew I was to ask questions about anything I didn’t understand.
So, that summer I began to read about Anne Frank but my brother constantly got on my nerves making a noise in the room we’d been told to stay in so I wandered around this big house my mum was helping clean and I found the cloak room where all the coats and shoes were kept. I curled up on a big cushion and I read and read and read. I had no idea what was going to happen to Anne Frank and I remember being quite confused at the ending because it was so abrupt. I’d obviously not fully understood why Anne Frank and her family were hiding away in the attic in the first place. My mum did sit down with me later and she explained, so I did come to grasp what her family were hiding from and why Anne Frank died.
It’s a strange thing though because when I think back to that summer I just loved reading about Anne Frank. I found her funny and endearing; she seemed like a lovely girl who was really clever and I admired her. I could even identify with some of the things she said and the things she felt. I didn’t really understand that she was in fear for her life, I took the bits that were relevant to me and those are the bits I remember from that summer. This is why I think children should be allowed to read uncensored, because a child only takes away the things they can understand, relate to and process; everything else fades into the background.
I’ve re-read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl quite a few times since the summer I was eight. As I’ve got older and more widely read, I’ve obviously come to learn so much more about WW2. Reading about Anne Frank as an adult, with greater knowledge about what her family were hiding from, with a real awareness of the unrelenting fear they must have been feeling, I mainly feel heartbreak and anger at what she, and millions of others like her, went through. It’s all heightened by the overwhelming realisation of just how young Anne Frank was. Reading this as an eight year old, Anne Frank at thirteen seemed so much older and wiser than me. Reading it again as an adult, it is apparent that Anne Frank, although wise beyond her years in some respects, was just a very young girl who should have had a whole life in front of her.
This is still a book I treasure, it’s such an incredibly important book and one that everyone, children included, should read. The photo at the top of this post is the very copy of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl I read when I was eight. It’s more battered than I would like but it was my mum’s secondhand copy, so it’s a book that has obviously been read many times even before it came to be mine. It just never fails to amaze me how we can fall in love with books in different ways every time we re-read them, or how we come to discover new things about the books or even ourselves.
Please feel free to share some of your Bookish Memories in the comments below!