September 20, 2013

Dutch Little Golden Books turn 60, publisher celebrates with ‘giga’ version

Filed under: Literature by Branko Collin @ 7:45 pm

The famous Little Golden Books, a series of children’s book originally published by Simon and Schuster in the USA, have always been popular in the Netherlands.

The booklets with the golden spine were first published in 1942. It took 11 years for the series to get its launch in the Netherlands with a translation of Little Peewee, or Now Open the Box. This year Dutch publisher Rubinstein celebrates the 60th anniversary of the series in the Netherlands with a large format release of the translated booklet.

According to Holly Moors, the success of the series in the Netherlands is due “largely because Annie M.G. Schmidt improved the American versions irreparably.” Moors has a photo of his 2-metre-tall son (?) Rik reading the book for comparison. The Giga Golden Book, as Rubinstein calls it, has 14 extra pages that were in the American original but not in the Dutch translation of 1953.

The early 1950s must have been a good year for American cultural exports to the Netherlands (so close after the war). In 1952 the Donald Duck weekly was launched in this country and that publication is also still going strong.

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May 8, 2011

The Dutch like Dutch children’s literature the best

Filed under: Literature by Branko Collin @ 2:11 pm

If you would ask us for our opinions about the best music (classic or pop), comics, films or literature, chances are the Dutch would come up with the names of British, American, Japanese, Belgian, French, German or Russian works. But when the Sargasso blog held a poll last month to determine the best children’s books, these were the results:

1. Thea BeckmanCrusade in Jeans (1973)
2. Roald Dahl – The BFG (1982)
3. Jan TerlouwHow to Become King (1971)
4. Paul BiegelThe Little Captain (1971)
5. Annie MG SchmidtTow Truck Pluck (1971)
6. Thea Beckman – Kinderen van Moeder Aarde (1985)
7. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – The Little Prince (1943)
7. J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (1937)
9. Johan Fabricius – De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (1923)
10. J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) (1954)
11. Tonke Dragt – De Brief voor de Koning (1962)
12. Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

Note that the participants of this poll were most likely grown-ups, probably in full-on nostalgia mode. Curiously Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren (The Brothers Lionheart, Pippi Longstocking) is missing from the top ten. How Lisa Tetzner’s Die schwarzen Brüder could only land the 70th spot on a lefty blog like Sargasso will probably remain a mystery.

I was a child in the 1970s, and my Big Four of children’s literature were Paul Biegel, Guus Kuijer, Tonke Dragt and Miep Diekman. Biegel and Dragt wrote books with mystical elements, whereas Kuijer and Diekman were of a more realistic bent.

Currently Schmidt’s Tow Truck Pluck is being translated to English, and the Nederlands Letterenfonds has a glowing review of De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe, which I guess means they are in the market for sponsoring translators.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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April 22, 2009

Annie M.G. Schmidt fairytale collection at

Filed under: Art,Literature by Branko Collin @ 2:34 pm

When I was a wee lad, one of my favourite fairytale books was Heksen en zo (Witches and such) by Annie M.G. Schmidt, and to my great joy and surprise I ran into the whole collection at the DBNL website. DBNL is a sort of Project Gutenberg, but they apparently have a good rapport with authors’ estates, because they manage to present in-copyright works by significant Dutch authors for free to a web audience.

This version of Heksen en zo is illustrated by Charlotte Dematons. The one we had at home was illustrated by the inimitable Carl Hollander, who also graced the works of Paul Biegel and Astrid Lindgren with his drawings.

There once was a king who was so rich that he had oysters for tea and fed real pearls to his pigs every day. When he drove by in his black carriage with golden wheels, the people bowed deep into the dust.

Sometimes a child said: “But he hasn’t got a nice face, mother.” This would startle the mother and she would whisper: “Shush, you are not allowed to say that.”

“Why not?” the child asked. “Can the king hear us?”

“No,” the mother said. “But the king has a marshal who keeps an ear to the ground.”

And this was so. The king had a marshal who could unscrew his left ear. When nobody was watching he would lay the ear between some shrubs near the window of a house. Then he would go away and leave his ear behind.


(From: De maarschalk die zijn oor te luisteren legde, Heksen en Zo, Annie M.G. Schmidt.)

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April 11, 2009

From sewage processor to amusement park

Filed under: Architecture by Branko Collin @ 1:12 pm

Amsterdam wants to repurpose the abandoned sewage processing towers on Zeeburgereiland, an island that now connects the new island neighbourhood of IJburg with the city centre. One of the towers will become the Annie M. G. Schmidt house, named after the children’s book and musical song writing icon (1911-1995) who once famously said: don’t erect a statue for me, I’d rather you remember me with a playground.

The proposed giraffe in the image is likely to be a slide, after Schmidt’s song Dikkertje Dap (lyrics), in which a small kid uses a giraffe’s long neck as a slide. The new destination for the three towers was announced this week by Amsterdam city planning councilman and former student union leader Maarten van Poelgeest, writes Arch Daily.

Other planned uses for the buildings are “a theatre, a restaurant, an exhibition space, and shops,” writes Fast Company. Architects Arons and Gelauff are the culprits.

Source images: Arons & Gauluff, Google Street View respectively.

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