Children’s Corner: The Tree in the Courtyard

Posted March 24, 2016 by Lillian in Children's Corner / 0 Comments

Children's Corner

It’s been a while since little man checked in and we got our first review book in the mail this past week so I thought it was a great time. Last week was Spring Break here in East TN. We checked out a small private school back home for him to attend (crossing all our fingers and toes that it happens). Small class size would be perfect for him.

Little man is excelling in preschool since we came back from Christmas break. Of course I’m biased but I think he’s doing really well. He knows all his letters and the sounds they make, he can recognize numbers up to 20 and count to 30, and he’s starting some small phonics books and reading on his own. Oh and he turned 5, I survived with little crying ?

Current Read: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – So far little man is really enjoying this. We picked up a copy at the library and are just pass the halfway mark (Dorothy just beat the wicked witch). He’s asked for Charlotte’s Web next. Hopefully I can find an illustrated version.

I received this book via Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

Children’s Corner: The Tree in the CourtyardThe Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank's Window by Jeff Gottesfeld
Illustrator: Peter McCarty
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on 2016-03-08
Length: 40 pages
Reviewing Hardcover from Publisher

Told from the perspective of the tree outside Anne Frank's window—this book introduces her story to a young audience.

The tree in the courtyard was a horse chestnut. Her leaves were green stars; her flowers foaming cones of white and pink. Seagulls flocked to her shade. She spread roots and reached skyward in peace.

The tree watched a little girl, who played and laughed and wrote in a diary. When strangers invaded the city and warplanes roared overhead, the tree watched the girl peek out of the curtained window of the annex. It watched as she and her family were taken away—and when her father returned after the war, alone.

The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace.

The Tree in the Courtyard by Jeff Gottesfeld is a unique way to teach children about the Holocaust. Told from the perspective of the tree that sat outside Anne Frank’s window, the tree recounts its life and the smiling girl who lived in the attic with her family, the scary bombs, and how the little girl never came back. Beautifully illustrated this book kept my five year old’s attention (not an easy feat) and he even remembered the story the next day asking questions about the girl and the tree.

Personally, Anne Frank’s diary was one of my first nonfiction books and will always be a favorite. I read it as a part of history/literature class in the 8th grade. And yes I cried my eyes out thinking of a girl my own age facing the fate she did. This recreation focuses on the tree just outside her window, which she mentions a few times in her book. The most notable quote Jeff Gottesfeld includes as the opening:

“The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening in the dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so move and entranced that we couldn’t speak.” ~Anne Frank

The voice of the story is kind, innocent and easily relatable for children. It tells the chestnut tree’s life a little at a time and reveals the horrors of World War II through the eyes of the tree. I thought it was a good way of describing such horrors to children as the tree didn’t understand and “was never the same” after the war. The ending itself was bittersweet because the tree lives on in the many saplings that have been planted around the world (true story!) and my son asked when we would go see the tree’s children. So of course I’m now looking up where they are so we can make a trip some day.

Final Conclusion:


About Jeff Gottesfeld

Jeff Gottesfeld is an acclaimed writer for page, stage, and screen. His work has won awards from the American Library Association, the Writer's Guild of America, and the National Council for the Social Studies. He has previously written for adult, teen, and middle-grade audiences, and The Tree in the Courtyard is his first picture book. He is based in Los Angeles. Visit him at

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