Anne Frank and Me
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|Author||Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld|
|Genre||Historical fiction, Teenage literature|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
Anne Frank and Me is a 2001 novel by husband-wife writing team Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld. Inspired by the life of Anne Frank, it follows the story of a teenage girl named Nicole Burns. The story was adapted as a play in 1996 in New York City, written and directed by Cherie Bennett.
Nicole, a fifteen-year-old American high school student living in the year 2001, comes from an affluent household and takes her lifestyle for granted. She has a website she calls Notes of GirlX. On the website, she talks about her life and frustrations. Absorbed in her studies, she becomes fascinated with a Holocaust survivor who speaks to her English class, named Paulette Littzer-Gold. Nicole feels drawn to the woman, and asks if they have previously met. The class takes a trip to a local Holocaust museum. During the trip, Nicole and her peers are assigned roles as Jewish teens living during the Holocaust. After the activity begins, Nicole hears students shrieking and gunfire. She attempts to run along with the rest of her classmates, but is struck in the back while ascending a staircase and loses consciousness.
When Nicole wakes, she finds herself in Paris in 1942. She is told that she is Nicole Bernhardt, the name of the fictional Jewish girl assigned her by her English teacher back in the Holocaust museum. As months passed, Nicole tells herself that the 2001 world is a dream and accepts that she is Nicole Bernhardt. Several of Nicole's friends are non-Jews who oppose Hitler's policies and protect the Bernhardt family. However, following the German invasion of France, Nicole's situation gets dramatically worse. Eventually, she is forced to hide in a rundown apartment in the streets of Paris. From her refuge, Nicole writes a string of anti-Nazi letters for the French resistance. In the letters, she calls herself GirlX.
The Bernhardt family is betrayed and Nicole is transported to Auschwitz and she meets Anne Frank aboard the train. Nicole remembers that she read Anne's diary and tells her, but Anne says she left it where she had been hiding. Later, a fellow Jew tries to save Nicole by sending her to be slave labor in the camp instead of being sent to be killed. Nicole and her sister Liz-Bette, who is very ill, are to be split up, Nicole to live and Liz-Bette to die. Nicole becomes hysterical and begs to be allowed to accompany her sister. The Germans, after mocking Nicole's devotion to Liz-Bette, allow her to go with the young girl. Nicole tearfully thanks them and then walks with Liz-Bette to the "showers." Liz-Bette is frenzied with terror, but Nicole calms her. Nicole then leads her sister in a Jewish prayer, as she whispers she loves Liz-Bette and they succumb to death.
Nicole wakes up, lying on a bench outside the museum. She finds out that other students had set off firecrackers which sent everyone running, when she bumped her head. Nicole stays at the hospital for a few days, and afterwards her life goes on, but she can't figure out if she was really in the Holocaust, or if it was just a bad dream. Nicole believes Paulette Littzer-Gold, the Holocaust survivor, who visited her school was the same woman at the Concentration Camp who told her to "stay to the right." The next day, Nicole finds out Mrs. Littzer-Gold had died overnight. She decides to go to Mrs. Littzer-Gold's funeral. Nicole sees a picture of her, but she looks nothing like the woman she thought she was. Nicole sadly accepts that she was never Nicole Bernhardt and that she never lived during the Holocaust.
After the funeral, Nicole looks at the things that belonged to Mrs. Littzer-Gold that are at the altar. She notices that a letter Mrs. Littzer-Gold owned was one of the GirlX letters that Nicole herself had written, back in Paris in 1942. The letter talked about how no one could silence her ( "her" being GirlX). Not only did Nicole find out she really had lived in the Holocaust, but she gave Mrs. Littzer-Gold the courage to live. Nicole takes her sister to a museum about Anne Frank.
- Although some serious readers of the Holocaust may find this story too contrived and trifling, other young adults may be hooked by the present and past connection between the lives of today's students and those teenagers who had lived and died during this tragic event. Genre: Holocaust. 2001, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 291 pp. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Kay Park Haas; Ottawa, Kansas
- Based on the authors' off-Broadway play of the same title, this is a powerful and affecting story. Narrated by Nicole, it makes the deprivations and degradation of the Nazi occupation come alive. Even if Nicole's trip back in time stretches belief, her emotions are always credible, from her changing feelings toward her family to her romance with her Paris boyfriend (the boy who ignored her in America), her boredom and terror while in hiding, and her bravery as she and her sister are being transported toward a concentration camp. This gripping story is an excellent companion to The Diary of Anne Frank and to studies of the Holocaust. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Penguin Putnam, 292p, 00-055251, Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
- Based on Bennett and Gottesman's 1997 play of the same name, this novel modernizes Nicole's story with the addition of the Internet, and the characters of Mrs. Litzger-Gold and Doom help to emphasize the importance of witnessing, remembering, and seeking truth. Shallow and apathetic, Nicole Burns reaches across time in this complex coming-of-age, time-travel novel that manages the many allusion-based plot threads well. As Nicole Bernhardt shares a cattle car with Anne Frank, she identifies with the girl and the story that Nicole Burns dismissed. Nicole Burns returns to her world with a better understanding of how honoring the truth about the past will help to safeguard the future. Young adults who have read Anne Frank's diary ... might be motivated to read more about the Holocaust. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 352p, . Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Lucy Schall SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
The play is written by Cherie Bennett and is slightly different from the book. In the beginning of the play, Nicole is practicing a dance with her friends that they will perform at the school dance that weekend. Her friend Suzanne asks her about the assignment they are reading for English class, which is The Diary of Anne Frank. Nicole's father is a scientist and doesn't believe in anything he cannot prove using his science, so Nicole is not even sure if the Holocaust existed. Later, at the dance, Jack asks Nicole to dance. However, he only does this to inform her that he has a crush on Suzanne. Nicole freaks out and runs into the street, getting hit by a car. When she wakes up she is in 1942, Paris and her family is Jewish. After getting over the original confusion, Nicole enjoys her Paris life, even though it is a restricted one. Eventually her family goes into hiding, but they are found out as being Jewish. On the train to Auschwitz, Nicole meets Anne Frank. They talk for a while, Nicole saying that she has read Anne's diary. When they get to Auschwitz, Nicole, her younger sister, mother, and Anne are all sent into the gas chambers. They pray a traditional Jewish prayer while the gas comes on. In the next scene, Nicole has woken up and is in a hospital bed. She seems to be thoroughly confused by her experience, questioning which life is or was reality. She is also now convinced that the Holocaust was real and should be remembered forever.
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