Two friends, Two languages, two different worlds; meet Betty and Cat, the main characters in a series of children's books exploring the wonderful world of bilingualism.
Betty is a dog and Cat, well, Cat is also a dog. Betty speaks Dutch and Cat speaks English. Together, they live in a house and share adventures, all with no boundaries or limits, and with no fear of learning each other's language.
Hennie Jacobs, the author, says: “kids don't translate, they react to what they hear and see. So it is natural for them to jump from a language to another.” In the books we can see Betty and Cat learning from each other and happily combining both worlds.
We read two books to my 3 1/2 year-old son: Betty and Cat at Home and Betty and Cat in The Kennel. He laughed out loud with both, and was pleasantly surprised at Mama and Papa hopping between languages.
These books will allow your child to feel more comfortable with their incredible capacity of having already different languages in their head. It's easy to imagine easily Betty and Cat talking in Turkish, Chinese, Swahili, French, Spanish, etc, and we can only hope as Hennie that this soon comes true.
I asked Hennie some questions about how she was able to publish children books. She shared how this started with a friend in France and how she went knocking on publishers doors in Paris without much success, until she ending up self-publishing. In her own words: “while writing the book has been brilliant, selling it, certainly in the beginning, was a nightmare! Its like standing naked in front of a stranger and asking for money.”
All has paid off, as now you can find her books in Amsterdam at Waterstones, The American Book Center, The English Bookshop, Island Bookstore, and at Kiekeboek in Haarlem. I asked Hennie for some advice for writers. She recommends to trust your own instinct, stay true to yourself and what you believe, and just practice, because the more you do something, the better you get.
I may try myself to start writing a book, but meanwhile I recommend these books for all of us who are raising bilingual and multilingual children. Sometimes it may feel very challenging to maintain different languages at home, these books make you feel proud.
The Betty and Cat books are illustrated by Madeleine van der Raad and Christine Duvernois.
Curious for more? You can also find Het Sneeuwt bij Betty and Cat (In the Snow), as well as the kennel books in French. Visit www.bettyandcat.com and find them on Facebook at Betty & Cat Bilingual Books.
Amsterdam Mamas received a free copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.
All images used by permission from Hennie Jacobs.