Looking for ideas for a book for your children? Emmy McCarthy shares the Mamas’ recommendations for Dutch literature translated into English.
Books play a particularly important role in the lives of international children, linking them with their home culture and helping to integrate them into the new one. Everyone knows about the Netherlands’ most famous rabbit ‘Nijntje’ (Miffy), but did you know that there are a whole wealth of books for children of all ages, which have been translated from their original Dutch language into English?
We asked the members of Amsterdam Mamas which books they would recommend for children of all ages to help them start exploring Dutch literary culture. Below are their recommendations:
Hugely popular as the celebrated author of the Jip and Janneke series of children’s books (also available in English), Schmidt’s credits go far beyond the famous little boy and girl. Also try her books Pluk and Pink Lemonade: Poems for Children.
Endlessly popular with pre-schoolers both in English and the original Dutch. The charming Kikker (Frog) books have simple cartoonish illustrations, and are a joy to read with your little one. With titles such as Frog is a Hero and Frog Makes a Friend, your children are sure to love them.
In de Beer’s delightful story Little Polar Bear, the littlest bear gets lost while out hunting, and drifts all the way to the jungle where a helpful hippo shows him the way home. Wonderful to read with your preschooler.
Stein’s books have recognisably Dutch illustrations by Chuck Groenink. There are some Christmas-themed titles in Dutch and some translated works such as Mine!, Brave Ben and The Child Cruncher.
Evocative and heart-warming, A Day on Skates: The Story of a Dutch Picnic, was written and illustrated by the author while she was studying in Dublin, and is based on her recollections of her Dutch childhood. The drawings are lovely and the story perfect for cold days ahead. The book tells the story of a brother and sister who go skating for the day with their classmates.
Kuijer’s fame in the Netherlands comes from his popular series of books starring ‘Madelief’ and his award-winning book Polleke. They have yet to be translated into English but his lovely novel The Book of Everything has. In this story our hero, nine-year-old Thomas, uses his imagination to escape an overbearing father and eventually overcome his fears.
Author of acclaimed children’s book Crusade in Jeans, Beckman won the Children’s Historical Novel of the year in 1974 with her sweeping novel based on actual historical events across Europe. Recommended for ages 8+.
Set deep in the second world war, Winter in Wartime tells the story of fifteen-year-old Michiel who becomes involved in the resistance movement after coming to the aid of a wounded British soldier. Perfect for teen historians.
Whimsical and philosophical with a healthy dose of surrealism, Tellegen’s acclaimed Letters to Anyone and Everyone is an award winning title, both for its original content and its English translation. Letters from animals to other animals and the world around them are interspersed with stories. Fun for children and also a quirky read for adults.
An abridged version of this article has previously been published in the ACCESS E-zine in 2012.
Emmy McCarthy is the Director of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas. She is a Mama, Entrepreneur, and Connector on a never-ending quest for balance in her life.