How Anne Frank Helped Me Score Free Classroom Novels

Mamacita says:  Every year, for over twenty years, I taught a unit based on The Diary of Anne Frank.  This title refers to the stage play; Anne’s actual diary is titled Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl.  Please don’t confuse the two; it makes me sad.

Our script was part of our literature textbook, and was the main reason I chose Prentice-Hall every four years; I loved the unedited, uncensored selections they chose.

Then, one year, the Political Correctness Police apparently took charge at Prentice-Hall.  I unpacked my boxes of brand-new shiny wonderful-smelling books full, I assumed, of the usual wonders that would help my students learn to make connections, groove on the universe, and soar.  That year, however, I made quite a different discovery.

Everything in the new edition had been polished and censored, and most of the really good stuff was either gone or sanitized into boring obscurity.  The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the censored selections.

All references to underpants and neutered cats had disappeared.  The spats between Anne and her mother were gone.  Mr. Van Daan was still allowed to refer to his son’s “damn cat,” but any reference to the cat’s missing testicles was gone. The famous passage about the glories of menstruation was gone.  Her descriptive longing to be a woman, and her confusion about boys, had been censored.  A good deal of the references to the horrors going on “outside” had been removed.  What was left was a cute play about emotionless people living in an attic.

I was so upset, I placed a call to Prentice-Hall and made my displeasure known.

The woman who took my call assured me that Prentice-Hall had asked and received permission from the authors of all the selections that had been dismembered.  Now, the play The Diary of Anne Frank was written by Goodrich and Hackett, and is BASED on Anne’s diary, but this woman was condescending to me so I stopped caring about her feelings.

“So, are you telling me that you had permission from Anne Frank to change the words of this play?”  I asked.

“Oh, yes, our editors had a lovely phone conversation with her, and later received a letter with her full permission.”  she told me.  I kid you not.

I hoped my straight face showed over the phone.  “Are you sure?”  I asked her.  “Anne Frank herself spoke to your editors and gave permission for these changes?”

“Yes indeed, ma’am.  We would never change an author’s words without permission from that author, directly.  I assure you that Anne Frank gave us her permission.”  I am still not kidding.

“You are aware that Anne Frank died in 1944.”  I was still being nice.


“We here at Prentice-Hall would like to send you some class sets of books.  What would you like?”

And so I added 5 class sets of lovely, UNABRIDGED novels to my classroom.  We didn’t use the new textbook that year because abridgements are the devil, and yes, I mean THAT devil.

For the record, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is perfect for 6th grade boys who are reluctant readers.  Also?  The chapter about Kaa is seriously scary.

Aaaand, I found enough copies of an old book with The Diary of Anne Frank in it to go around.  We just used that.

All those boxes of brand-new shiny books are, as far as I know, still stacked in the back of that classroom.  They were useless.  When I was there, I threw a cloth over them and used them as a table.

In that way, they became useful again.


How Anne Frank Helped Me Score Free Classroom Novels — 6 Comments

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday

  2. Reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s outrage at publishers “editing” F451. They did exactly what the book warns of! He took action and got it changed.
    RIP Ray Bradbury

  3. This bothers me beyond belief, but then, Texas (home of so many textbook sanitizers) doesn’t want to teach critical thinking. I just don’t know what this world is coming to……

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