I've heard some incredible stories since I started working with the stories of World War II. One of my favorites is the Anne and Margot Frank / Juanita and Betty Wagner pen pal story. The Iowa pen pal connection was one that had a profound effect on me for two reasons:
1) Anne Frank was my hero when I was in the fourth grade. I wrote about that in my book A Walk With Esther. Anne was so real to me and I read the diary over and over.
2) Anne didn't have a pen pal in NYC or LA, she had a pen pal in Iowa. The girl's name was Juanita Wagner and their sisters wrote to one another too. That's amazing to me and I was so thrilled when two young ladies from Burlington said they would capture the story for A BOOK by ME. I knew Anne said in her letter that she couldn't find Danville on the map but she did find nearby Burlington. It thrilled me that Anne had even looked at a map of Iowa and I thought it would make students more interested in the famous diary to learn about it. To have an author and illustrator from Burlington made it very special indeed.
Since I arrived in Los Angeles, I visited the Museum of Tolerance where those famous letters from Anne and Margot Frank now reside. I met a lovely woman named Elana Samuels last week and she told me that she knew Betty Wagner. I came thousands of miles to find someone who knew a lady I've researched and respected for many years -- someone from Iowa.
Elana invited me to come back today and see the letters written by the Frank sisters. The museum's new Anne Frank exhibit is outstanding. If you are in the Los Angeles area, visit the Museum of Tolerance and experience it. Also, they have Holocaust survivors who speak there at 1 pm most every day. I've heard two survivor stories in the past week.
Bringing history to life is an honor and I hope young readers are as inspired as I am by this story. Oceans Apart by Haley Darnall and Halley Villont is available on Amazon.