Shadow Life: A Portrait of Anne Frank and Her Family Booktalk

  • Grades: 6–8, 9–12

Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her diary, but she wasn’t the only person in her family to keep a diary — her older sister Margot also had a diary, and her view of Anne and her family are very different.

Hello, my name is Margot Frank, and I’d like to tell you about my little sister, Anne. We are nothing at all alike. I am quieter, and Anne is a chatterbox. She is curious, nosy, wanting to know about everything, and know it right away. She’s never known a stranger, and makes friends easily. I take more time to get to know people. I believe in the need to form a Jewish state and I want to live in Palestine. Anne cares little about being Jewish, and just wants to be famous, although she’s not sure what she wants to be famous for. She always seems to be in a hurry to grow up. I’d rather enjoy what I have now.

But since July 5, 1942, there hasn’t been much to enjoy. Our family is in hiding from the Germans. I remember when we left Germany to move to Amsterdam, Daddy was so sure we would be safe. We weren’t. The Germans invaded Holland, and Jews were no longer safe. There were so many rules and restrictions on what we could do and where we could go. Sometimes whole families disappeared overnight. Many people were sent to labor camps, never to be seen again. Daddy had been making plans for us to go into hiding on July 11, but when I got my notice to report to a labor camp on July 5, we knew we could delay no longer. By 6:00 am the next day, we were gone. I was 16, and Anne was 13.

The next two years were a nightmare of fear, hunger, quarrels, frustrations, and occasional celebrations. Eight people lived in a space too small for half that many, in the annex behind Daddy’s business office. During the day we couldn’t wear shoes and had to talk in whispers so no one in the building could hear us. We couldn’t even use the toilet, and had to use glass jars instead. The only times we could make any noise at all were during the lunch hour, after the office closed, and on weekends.

For someone like Anne, used to being with her friends, going wherever she wanted to go, full of energy and easily bored, it was hard. Perhaps that’s why she spent so much time writing in her diary. She was much more dedicated to it than I was to mine. It could have been a way for her to escape from the small, quiet box that our lives had become limited to.

But this is my diary, and I will write not just about my sister, but about me and how it feels to me to live hidden away, threatened by the Germans only because I am Jewish, nothing more. I am the quiet sisters, who stays out of the petty quarrels that flare among us. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think or feel—I do, but I share that only with my diary, and now with you.


This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.