Alias Anna

Based on Hiding in the Spotlight


Ages 10 and Up


Zhanna and Frina

How would the young girls survive after their parents and grandparents were killed by the Nazis?  Fate took them into the upper echelon of the German army. Well-known as the talented Jewish pianists Zhanna and Frina Arshanskaya, they had to become someone else.

Award winning children’s author Susan Hood read about Greg Dawson’s mother and aunt surviving the Holocaust.  She couldn’t stop thinking about 14-year-old Zhanna (alias Anna), her 12-year-old sister Frina, and what their story says about the courage of kids and the life-saving power of the arts.

Zhanna and Frina tucked the story of their perilous adolescence away, never speaking of it to family or friends, until fifty years later when Zhanna’s eighth-grade granddaughter Aimée got a social studies project to interview a relative about their life at the same age. She wrote a letter to Zhanna, innocently asking:

“What was life like when you were thirteen?”

That opened the floodgates. As one of the only known survivors of the Drobitsky Yar killing field in Ukraine, Zhanna realized that the world needed to hear this little-known story of how the Holocaust began.

One of the first things Zhanna confided to Aimée was that Nazis were the ultimate bullies. She was surprised to find that death mattered little; what hurt more was being harassed, ridiculed, and laughed at for things beyond their control.

“Humiliation is much worse than death.

I guess our honor is life itself.”

                                          ~Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson

Hood wrote the book in verse, using lyrical language to echo the music—composed by Chopin, Brahms, Mozart, and Bach—that was the girls’ salvation. She combined Dawson’s extensive research and primary sources with her poetry to create a nonfiction biography in verse.

Look for

Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis

March 2022. Published by HarperCollins

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0063083892

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0063083899

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