About ‘The Cat Who Lived with Anne Frank’
Hardcover. 40 pages. 4-8 years. Children’s picture book. Published Feb. 5, 2019. Told from the perspective of the cat who actually lived with Anne Frank in the famous Amsterdam annex, this poignant book paints a picture of a young girl who wistfully dreams of a better life for herself and her friends, tentatively wonders what mark she might leave on the world, and, above all, adamantly believes in the goodness of people.
Source: Philomel Books.
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If it weren’t for shaving, there’s a good possibility “The Cat who Lived with Anne Frank” wouldn’t exist.
Milwaukee native David Lee Miller described the moment his writing partner Steven Jay Rubin came up with the idea that sparked their jointly authored children’s picture book.
“(Steve) would record movies on cassette and listen to them as he shaved,” Miller said. “He was listening to the 1959 movie of Anne Frank and there’s a scene where Anne and Peter are chasing Mouschi around the attic. It dawned on him to wonder, ‘What did the cat think of all this crazy stuff?’”
That was the late 1990s. The pair, who both reside in the Los Angeles area, began researching the period. They traveled to Amsterdam, exploring the Frank and Van Daam hiding space. They also roamed the neighborhood around “The Secret Annex” with an eye toward the way a cat would have ranged through the territory.
“We were very careful,” he said. “It’s told in Mouschi’s voice but we made sure everything was historically accurate.”
The book’s illustrations, by Elizabeth Baddeley, show Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo, which was close to the spice factory where Anne was hiding. Nazi soldiers enjoyed themselves there, unaware that zookeepers were hiding more than 300 Jews in storage areas above the animal cages.
With a joint background in the film industry (both have several credits in that arena), they wrote a screenplay. That led, ultimately, to the book, which was released in February.
“Anne Frank has become this central iconic figure of the Holocaust,” Miller said, “but she’s a 13-year-old girl going through normal teenage stuff and I think that’s what’s made her so accessible, not just to young readers, but to everybody.”
Miller spent his own teen years attending youth group meetings at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun and classes at Nicolet High School, graduating a semester early to attend an ulpan program in Israel. It was his second adult-free trip there; his first was the summer between his sophomore and junior years with Milwaukee resident Bruce Arbit.
“The book has gotten me back in touch with Bruce,” he said, adding that their trip “was our first time traveling alone at such a young age, and boy, did we have a fabulous time and life-changing adventures.”
Now reconnected, the pair are planning a new adventure, a Milwaukee event around the book. Possible dates include Anne’s birthday in June. But Miller will be in town before then. He, his wife and their teenage children return frequently to visit his mother, J. Donna, and the Bayside house where he grew up.
“I love Milwaukee,” he said. “We have a beautiful property so we love walking on the beach, no matter what the weather is. We love the restaurants, and every year I take my mom to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services and see friends – I still have plenty of friends in Milwaukee.”
“The Cat who Lived with Anne Frank” by David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Rubin is illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, whose credits include “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark.” Published by Philomel Books, it is available through local booksellers, e-tailers and several Holocaust Museums (including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.).