Armchair Travel: Kids’ The Netherlands Books
I’ve talked before about how much and why I love reading to travel; below is a list of books we’ve enjoyed reading through to explore a country the Louisiana Krewe hasn’t been to yet — The Netherlands! (The Detroit Crew would like it known that they have, indeed, been there — the picture proves it. Fine, rub it in. 😉 So here’s how we adventured through children’s books about Holland:
Sophie the Stork’s Amsterdam Adventure Book is a completely charming tour of Amsterdam’s child-friendly sights. It is colorful, fun to read, and not too sparse on text (as too many baby books are, in my opinion…)
Third in the beloved Knuffle Bunny series (“Knuffle” is Dutch for “snuggle”), Knuffle Bunny Free sees Trixie and her stuffed rabbit go on a journey to Holland to visit her Oma and Opa…and unexpectedly grow up a little along the way. It tugged at this mama’s heartstrings, but also is a great book that walks children through an international flight, as well as some everyday Dutch life.
Based on the true story of a cat and a baby who survived a massive flood, Katje the Windmill Cat is a heroic cat who saves her miller’s daughter from drowning (somehow I think just the windmill and flood part are true…). It is sweetly infused with historic Dutch atmosphere.
Another Katje, but this time a human one, Boxes for Katje really is a true story (read the amazing note at the end!) of a little girl in Holland after WWII who receives boxes from the US with food and clothing inside (possibly saving their lives, though it’s not discussed), and sends back a quintessentially Dutch gift in return. Sweet and heartwarming (and not melancholy, despite the subject), it is well worth reading.
Illustrated in the style of the Dutch masters, The Boy Who Held Back the Sea is the telling of the classic Dutch folktale of a little boy whose quick thinking and bravery saved his town from flooding. The Hole in the Dyke is the same story geared toward younger children. (Given the topography of The Netherlands, I really shouldn’t be surprised at how many books about The Netherlands feature water…water flowing, water frozen, water flooding! But it is definitely a theme that emerged as we read through these books, ha. Even parents learn through armchair travel!)
Anna and Johanna is inspired by two of Vermeer’s paintings, and the illustrations are fittingly beautiful. Canals and lace-making feature heavily, making it a lovely introduction to The Netherlands. (Here’s a helpful review of the book.)
Windmill de Kat is a wonderful introduction for little to not-so-little children to how an actual, historical windmill works and its place in the Dutch economy (don’t worry, the text is not the least bit dry!). Clear explanations and whimsical illustrations make this a winner. Read excerpts of the book to get an excellent sense of it.
Beautifully illustrated, and retold by Bruce Coville simply and straightforwardly enough to hold younger children’s attention, Hans Brinker is the classic tale of a heroic young man and his family. His heroism isn’t grand feats, but the everyday hard, right decisions he makes time and again (that result in a happy ending).
I saved my favorite for last — The Greatest Skating Race is filled with so much to unpack that is Dutch; maps, names, places, traditions, values, but most of all a brave boy who safely sneaks two children across the border during WWII. Not the most lighthearted of books, given the setting, but I highly recommend it as wonderful introduction to elementary/early elementary aged children to both a bit of that time in history and Dutch culture.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I found this webpage to be a helpful resource in the compiling of this list.
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