Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary (+Giveaway)

I am so, so excited to share Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary (Sleeping Bear Press), written by Meeg Pincus with illustrations by Jordi Solano. I had the privilege of reading this soon-to-be-released gem, and it’s fantastic! This true story is so compelling that I found myself on the edge of my seat until the very last page. The author, Meeg Pincus, met Miep many years ago, and included powerful quotes from Miep’s autobiography in the story. The warm illustrations provide the perfect “feel” for the setting of this inspiring story, and the book also includes a few wonderful photos. 

 

Meeg has kindly agreed to join us at PBB and answer a few questions about her lovely book (which received a starred review from Kirkus!) and will release next month. 

Meeg, what inspired you to write about Miep Gies?

Well, like many youth—especially girls of Jewish heritage like myself—I was a huge fan of The Diary of Anne Frank and felt very connected to Anne herself. Miep was a heroine to Anne—caring for her family and four other hiders in the Secret Annex for two years—so she was to me as well, though I didn’t know anything beyond what Anne wrote about her. 

Then, when I was a newspaper reporter in my twenties (for a regional paper owned by The Washington Post), I got to cover Miep’s visit to the D.C. area. I watched with wonder as Miep talked with schoolchildren about Anne and courage. I learned more about her story, discovering she not only hid the eight people in the Secret Annex (and one in her home, which not many know!), but she also marched into the Gestapo police headquarters twice after they were arrested to try to buy their freedom! 

Ever quiet and calm, Miep always talked about how she felt she did nothing out of the ordinary, nothing beyond what any person of conscience would do in such circumstances. I see her as an amazing role model, relevant to these times and any place where groups of people are persecuted, and I wanted to share her story with kids.

Why did you decide to focus on Miep’s relationship with Anne’s diary in this picture book biography rather than her many courageous acts like the one you just described?

Writing a PB bio, as author Donna Janell Bowman wrote recently, “is like carving a giant Redwood down to an 8×10 picture frame.” You generally have 32 pages. You have to find a single thread to weave into a life story that compels kids—and there are always so many threads to choose from. So, you have to (sometimes torturously) let go of parts of the person’s story that don’t exactly fit that story thread, thus relegating some great facts to the back matter, or even the cutting room floor. This is just the process of writing a PB bio.

That said, beyond Miep’s courage, I just found her relationship to Anne’s diary so heart-wrenching and fascinating. The diary, which is arguably “the most famous diary” in the world, was this object that tethered Miep to Anne. It is what she risked her life to save for Anne, who dreamed of publishing it after the war. It is what Miep held onto as she waited and hoped for Anne’s return from the Nazi camps. Then, when Anne did not return, the diary was such a painful reminder for Miep of what she saw as her failure (to keep the hiders from being arrested), that she couldn’t bear to read it for years—even when people all over the world were reading it. 

It just really got me in the gut, this very personal thread of Miep’s story. It provides kids an emotional touchstone, as well as an early reverence for Anne’s diary as a historical and personal object, and I chose to focus on that thread in this book.

Some people may question whether the topic of the Holocaust is too sad or scary for elementary school children. How do you respond to that?

That’s a great question, and one I’ve thought a lot about. Firstly, this book is not geared to pre-K or the youngest elementary school children. I’d say its sweet spot is second to sixth grade. Secondly, our team on this book (myself, editor Sarah Rockett, and illustrator Jordi Solano) worked very hard to make it age-appropriate for kids, focusing on the good Miep did, while also not shying away from the emotions and the fact that prejudice can ruin many lives. 

I’ve been thrilled to have validation from expert readers that we walked this line well, by places like The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect (from which we have an endorsement on the book jacket) and Kirkus (which said, in a starred review, that the book “narrates the terrible facts accurately, not understating them but not allowing the horrors to overwhelm the intensely heroic accomplishment of this kind, courageous woman”).

Mostly, though, I think it’s critical to have conversations with children from the get-go about prejudice, social justice, integrity, compassion, and standing up for what we feel is right. My friend Nancy Churnin, author of Martin & Anne (another Anne Frank-themed book released in this year when Anne would have turned 90) recently cited the poignant Oscars & Hammerstein lyrics in a similar discussion: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/You’ve got to be taught from year to year/It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear/You’ve got to be carefully taught.” 

In short, we cannot shield children from the prejudice in this world; they will learn it one way or another. So, I’d rather read and create books for kids that deal with it sensitively and intentionally—to “carefully teach” kids NOT to hate and fear, to recognize the folly of prejudice and fight against it…just as Miep did.

* * * * * BOOK GIVEAWAY * * * * *

One lucky winner chosen from those who leave a comment on the post will receive a copy of Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue and The Inventor’s Secret. Coming soon -- Exquisite (Abrams, 2020), SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters (LIttle, Brown), and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Sleeping Bear Press. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at: www.suzanneslade.com

74 Comments:

  1. So excited to read this book! Thanks for the spotlight on it, Suzanne. Congrats, Meeg, for writing and sharing this important story.

  2. Avatar
    Judith Wright Aplin

    I have long been fascinated by Anne’s story. I would like very much to share the story of her important diary with my granddaughters so that they can better understand courage and hope. Thank you for writing this book!

  3. Oh I’m so grateful to you for sharing this. Thank you! Can’t wait to read it!

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    Liz Gilbert Bedia

    Such an important story to share! Can’t wait to read it! Congratulations, Meeg!

  5. This sounds like a profound, moving story and I can’t wait to read it. Congratulations on bringing it to life!

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    Kim Pfennigwerth

    What a fabulous interview! While I’ve read Anne’s diary – I never knew Miep’s story and really look forward to reading this.

    • Thank you, Kim! Lots of folks are telling us they never knew her story (as I didn’t myself fully until I got to meet her and learn more!). So glad we get to share it now with kids (and their grownups!).

  7. This sounds like an excellent and important book. Congratulations, Meeg! I can’t wait to read it.

  8. Such an important book, Meeg. Kudos for YOUR bravery and persistence in bringing it to light.

  9. thank you for sharing an important part of history we must never forget.

  10. Thank you, Meeg and Suzanne. Meeg, what a great intro to Miep you’ve had! I’m fascinated by all things Anne Frank. I’m looking forward to reading your book about Miep. (I recently reviewed the graphic novel adapted by Ari Folman and David Polonsky–for YA or MG and also a great read).https://talesforallages.com/anne-franks-diary-the-graphic-adaptation-retold-by-ari-folman-and-illustrated-by-david-polonsky/ And I’ve bought the definitive version of the diary in which the deleted information is returned to the text.

  11. Thanks for sharing. Just reading the two pages picture I’m curious to how the rest of the story goes.

  12. Oh my gosh, what a fabulous story! I can’t wait to read it.

  13. Looking forward to reading this fascinating account of Anne Frank’s life and legacy.

  14. A terrific interview full of fascinating insights! I so look forward to reading and sharing this book! Such an interesting angle. Thanks Suzanne and Meeg!

  15. Wonderful interview. Anne’s story has always fascinated me as well as all of the people involved. Can’t wait to read this book!

  16. Just added this to my TBR list on Goodreads and can’t wait to read this! I just read a lovely picture book about the tree outside of Anne’s annex, so I think this will provide another interesting POV on her story.

    • Thank you so much and, yes, I love that book as well! There are several newer Anne Frank-related PBs now (also see Martin & Anne by Nancy Churnin) — great to compare and contrast with kids!

  17. Avatar
    Debra K Shumaker

    Wow, can’t wait to read this book! As I was reading this interview, it dawned on me how important Miep’s story is and how incredible that it hasn’t been done for kids before and how grateful I am that Meeg has written it. Excellent interview!

  18. Congrats to you, Meeg! I’m excited to read this!!

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    Danielle Hammelef

    Thanks for the interview today. I had never heard of this brave woman before and now can’t wait to read your book. I vividly remember experiencing all the emotions when I read Anne’s Diary.

  20. Can’t wait to read this!

  21. I cannot wait to hold this book in my hands. I had the privilege of reading an early version and knew right away it would become a timeless book someday. SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!!

  22. A fascinating subject! Congrats!

  23. Such a powerful and yet difficult story to tell. Kudos to you for writing it and for the comments Kirkus as given it.

    With gratitude,

    Ann

  24. Thanks for this sharing this PB and the important lesson of teaching children courage in the face of hate.

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    Patricia Buckley

    I’ve always been inspired by the story of Miep and read an adult-level book about her life a decade ago. Great job Meeg!

    • Thanks so much, Patricia! That was probably Miep’s memoir, on which much of my PB is based — an amazing read! So many more details in there that we can’t include in a 32-pg PB.

  26. I just finished reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time a few weeks ago. I am so interested in learning more about Miep and find out what her story was. She had to be a brave person!

  27. Avatar
    Ellen Leventhal

    What a great post! I absolutely can’t wait to read this book. I have always been fascinated by courageous people during dark times, and this book looks fabulous. I am so happy for you, Meeg, and happy for all of us who will get to read this book.

    • Ellen, thank you so much for all your support, and I’m with you in being fascinated by people like Miep who shine a light in the darkest times! Thank goodness for them.

  28. What a great book. Timely also. I cannot wait to read it. Such a huge topic to squeeze into a picture book.

  29. What an amazing story! I look forward to reading it and adding it to my collection of books on the Holocaust. Thank you for writing this story.

  30. This is another picture book like PINK AND SAY that teachers can use in upper elementary. What a powerful story Ms. Pincus has told!

  31. Congratulations on your book’s publication, Meeg! It’s good to hear more about the unsung heroes who stick their necks out to help others despite cruel situations — especially for children. Thank you for writing this story, and I look forward to hearing more about its backstory when you speak at one of the U-T San Diego Festival of Books panels. Kind regards, Joy Chu

  32. Many, many thanks, Joy. Yes, sadly Miep’s story is still so relevant in these times. I’m grateful to be able to share her brave example of resistance and compassion with kids. And so excited for the SD Festival of Books, thank you!!

  33. Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Secret Annex. It was not at all what I had imagined it to be, but it was a very powerful experience. I look forward to reading this book!

  34. Such an important book!!! I can’t wait to read it. I read Anne’s diary when I was 10 and it changed me forever–I’ve read everything I can about the Jewish holocaust–but spending some time in that apartment is something I’ll never forget. Bless you for writing this book.

  35. Thank you for featuring this book and thank you to Meeg for sharing your process. I love the metaphor of carving a redwood down to a frame.

  36. Meeg and Suzanne, thank you for this thought provoking interview. I look forward to reading Miep’s courageous story,

  37. This is such a powerful story. I hope it finds it’s way to readers’ hands and into lots of libraries.

  38. Avatar
    Jennifer Lynn Dieleman

    What an amazing look at an unknown hero. I am so glad that Meg told this important story. I cannot wait to read it.

  39. We should all aspire to be like Miep. Thank you for the thoughtful insights on how to find the heart of a pb bio.

  40. I agree that we need to share the amazing stories of people who did wonderfully brave and caring things during a dark time in our history. Students will relate these brave people to their life situations. Even when things look bad at home or you are struggling in school, you still have a choice to do good and to be compassionate and kind. I hope reading books about people who have made these hard choices empowers my students to reach down and find that courage in themselves. I teach my students about heroes of the holocaust and I can’t wait to add this book to our must read list.

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