Anne Frank and Me
By Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld
Nicole Burns is a self-centered teen in love with a boy from school; nasty to her little sister at home; and disinterested in her studies, especially when it’s the Holocaust—a topic she considers ancient history.
During a field trip with her school to visit a traveling Anne Frank exhibit, gun shots are fired and Nicole’s life takes a sudden turn to the past. She is now Nicole Bernhardt, a Jewish teenager, living in Paris after the Nazis have occupied the city.
At first, Nicole is discombobulated by the travel back in time. She has no internet or any of the electronic perks of 21st Century America. Everything in 1942 Paris is topsy-turvy when it comes to logic: her French parents resemble Nicole’s English teacher and the school principal, but her little sister and friends remain the same in this time warp.
As the Nazis settle in France and start to pass their racial laws, Nicole is no longer admitted into cafes, she has to wear the yellow star and has to be in her house by curfew. When non-French Jews are rounded up and are taken to the Vélodrome d’Hiver to be transported to Drancy, France’s infamous internment camp, Nicole is taken by mistake and she witnesses the deplorable conditions and the indignities of those who have been arrested by the French police who are cooperating with the Nazis.
She is soon saved by her father who is still allowed to practice medicine and works at one of the local hospitals. However, soon after, the situation for native French Jews escalates, and Nicole and her family go into hiding just as Anne Frank. Like the Franks, the Bernhardts are betrayed by someone they know, arrested, and taken to Auschwitz. It’s during that train journey to Poland when Nicole has the chance meeting with Anne Frank and memories of Nicole’s future self overlap with the 1942 Nicole.
Written for a young adult audience, Anne Frank and Me attempts to present the plight of French and non-French Jews in a truthful manner, but the narrative falters with just a bird’s eye view of what occurred during that period. Using Nicole’s diaries to make the tie-in with Anne Frank falls flat. Nicole’s trite observations about the predicament of Paris’ Jews reflects the one-dimensional nature of the character.
Yet for its thin characterization and contrived plot, Me and Anne Frank’s saving grace is towards the end when Nicole—back in the present—has learned an important historical lesson that honors the truth about the past and could help protect the future. In spite of its flaws, Anne Frank and Me hopefully will inspire young readers to learn more about the events that led to the persecution of Europe’s Jews.