Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

Anne Frank

The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

Sid Jacobson & Ernie Colon

 I was given this book by my brother as a joint Birthday/returning from holiday gift, he had recently taken a trip to Amsterdam and visited the Anne Frank house, the annex in which the Frank family hid, now a museum.

This is a graphic novel commissioned by the Museum, apparently, according to my brother, one of several. Instead of simply commissioning a book and translating it, the Anne Frank house have apparently had several completely different versions produced in different languages. I have hear the English version written by Sid Jacobson and drawn by Ernie Colon, a duo that have previously adapted the 9/11 attacks into journalistic graphic novels.

I must confess I have never read Anne Frank’s diary, it’s one of those books most people first encounter in school but I was never taught it and my general disinterest in history has so far stopped me ever picking it up, I am however familiar with the story as I’m sure most people are.
I was excited to read this book, eager to have my barebones knowledge of Anne’s life fleshed out.

I enjoyed reading this work greatly but did find it a little stiff. The writing is very factual and to the point, dialogue between characters is at times virtually non-existent, the story mainly told through text boxes. What little spoken dialogue there is exists almost entirely to back up what is said in these text boxes and the dialogue is robotic and unbelievable.
At its worst the reader will be presented with a panel with a text box reading something along the lines of “Anne was a studious child”, the panel will feature Otto Frank gazing at his daughter and thinking to himself “Head always in a book”.

Such panels underline the main problem with this book, it is intended to be a very factually accurate title, probably the decision of the Anne Frank house, it is not a graphic novel so much as it is a biographical essay with pictures.
It’s educational bent is by no means a bad thing and I can understand why they chose this route to go down, personally though I would have much preferred it if Jacobson had chosen to tell the story through the mouths of the characters, giving a better insight into their thoughts and feelings.
This would have meant stepping away from the straight facts of the stories, words would be put in characters mouths, though it would have created a much more immersive and engaging experience.

The art is good, though occasionally suffers this same problem, several panels appear simply as dressing for text boxes. Comics are traditionally a medium where art is the driving force of the story, text providing dialogue and additional information, here it seems to be the opposite.
It is also glaringly obvious when a panel is a recreation of a photograph, characters suddenly leap in their level of detail and begin to pose a little too formally for their surroundings. 
Criticisms aside though the art is good, backgrounds are incredibly detailed, lovingly rendered and the scenes where the family are separated in the concentration camps and slowly wither down to skeletons is genuinely distressing.

Having read it, I feel I have a much better understanding of the hardships the Frank Family faced and have been inspired to read the diary proper.
Despite it failing slightly in the education to entertainment ratio and being poor in places this book should serve as a very helpful introduction to Anne Frank’s story for those that are only slightly aware of it for those who are familiar with the story it will provide a fresh perspective on one of the most personal chapters of one of histories greatest mistakes.

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