February 29, 2020

The Letter for the King gets the Netflix treatment

Filed under: Dutch first,Literature,Shows by Branko Collin @ 1:59 pm

On 20 March 2020, Netflix will start running its mini-series The Letter for the King based on the 1962 children’s book of the same name by Tonke Dragt.

Set in the middle ages, knight-in-training Tiuri is tasked by a stranger to deliver a letter to the king and save the world in the process. The adventure spans six episodes. Dragt wrote a sequel to her book, The Secrets of the Wild Wood, so who knows? If this series does well, they might commission another.

According to an interview with Dragt in Trouw last year, this is the first Dutch book that is being turned into an international series by Netflix. Dragt, now 89:

I immediately said no to a couple of [changes Netflix had planned]. No torture! They wanted to remove shield-bearer Piak from the story but I said: Piak stays. And they wanted to make Tiuri’s background more interesting, but I was against that—he is a regular boy. Children must be able to think: that could happen to me. Will I keep the promise [to deliver the letter]?

I had never heard of [Netflix]. So now I need to stay alive for a little while longer, until I have seen at least the first episode. Will it be good or disappointing? I will decide then if I will watch more of it.

Dragt’s stories often revolve around dualities, about finding that crack in the middle to slip through. Tiuri gets the tough choice: do I follow the formal steps that will get me knighted or do I throw that all away so that I can behave knightly?

In De Zevensprong, a so-called seven-way junction is the starting point for a mystery: there are only six roads. The book plays with the notion that a fork in the road is where a single road splits in two—or are they three roads meeting? The duality must be resolved to find the key to the mystery.

And Dragt’s The Towers of February posits that today, Leap Day, is the only time you can slip between realities.

See also: The Dutch like Dutch children’s literature the best

(Illustration: Netflix)

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July 10, 2018

Children’s book on Suriname sold discrimination as facts

Filed under: Literature by Orangemaster @ 6:38 pm

Dutch publishers and distributors can’t seem things to get right sometimes. Last year, a drugstore was selling a colouring book featuring Hitler, and now a mother was shocked to pick up a copy of ‘Suriname, here we come’ at the library containing some discriminating comments about the former Dutch colony.

The book tells children that cheating on one’s spouse is common and that men often have multiple women as partners. There’s all kinds of ways of discussing something like this seriously with children, but here the goal is to imply that it’s morally wrong, which is the wrong way to go about it. Why children need to know this if they visit Suriname is beyond me.

The rest depicts the Surinamese as bad people. “The Surinamese deliberately hit dogs with their cars, and used to sell themselves as slaves. Did you know that phone calls between Surinamese can often take a long time? A Surinamese needs an endless introduction and is unable to end a conversation”, all of which is presented as ‘facts’. I bet money the author is Caucasian and I can’t be bothered to check.

In light of pictures of the book’s content floating around Twitter, the publisher has decided to pull the book, basically admitting it was a bad decision to publish it in the first place. However, the publisher was obviously fine with it until they got called out for peddling such nastiness, which makes them tone-deaf and not suitable for children. Educate not hate, right?

And in true Dutch form, the ‘excuse’ contains “we never intended to hurt anyone”, but in fact they thought this was appropriate content to teach children until they were called out on social media.

(Link: nltimes.nl)

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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 29, 2011

New medievalist fantasy show at Efteling theme park—Raveleijn

Filed under: Shows by Branko Collin @ 2:39 pm

Science fiction blog IO9 noticed the new Raveleijn attraction at Efteling in Noord-Brabant, and the steam-punkiness of it all.

The show tells the story of the evil count Graveheart who has his subjects building mechanical creatures that destroy the land. It is up to the ancient Order of Ravens, a order of magical knights, to stop the threat and return, er, order. Six shows are performed each day in the new, 35 million euro Raveleijn compound, and there is also a spin-off TV series.

Both the back-story and the TV series were written by hit children’s horror story writer Paul van Loon, who lives just around the corner from Efteling in Drunen. He is a serial winner of the Nederlandse Kinderjury award, a literary prize awarded by children. Van Loon usually swipes the awards for the younger age group, with Francine Oomen ‘owning’ the 10 to 12-year-olds. Remarkably, when the children were asked in 2002 what the best children’s books of all time were, it was J.K. Rowling who took off with most of the prizes instead of Oomen and Van Loon.

(Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Arch who released it into the public domain)

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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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March 20, 2011

35 Dutch Sesame Street songs by Henny Vrienten

Filed under: Music by Branko Collin @ 2:16 pm

Holly Moors points out that Rubinstein released a CD (accompanying a booklet) with 35 songs from the Dutch version of kids show Sesame Street.

The music on Vriendjes Voor Altijd (Friends Forever) was written by Henny Vrienten, the lyrics by various writers. Most of the songs are sung by characters unique to the Dutch version of Sesame Street—Mr Aart, Ienie Mienie, Tommie—with Big Bird (called Pino over here) making the odd appearance.

Hennie Vrienten was one of the front men of legendary Dutch pop band Doe Maar during its short life in the early 1980s (the band broke up because the members couldn’t handle their popularity!).

Moors has this to say:

[…] One big party. If you have children or grand children of the right age, the purchase of this booklet + CD are obligatory, but use any excuse to buy this jewel, because any music lover will appreciate this CD, no matter what age.

Listen for instance to the magnificently modern classic Dutch street organ song with a twist that Vrienten created for Mijn Broer (My Brother), or the lovely exotically bouncy Gasfornuis (Gas Stove). […]

Vrienten clearly treats kids like grown-ups, and the result is that you get to hear songs with surprising rythms, remarkable arrangements, and intelligent changes. Music you can listen to again (and parents of small children know how repetitive children’s music can get), and that even gets better upon hearing it again.

Moors’ review has samples of four songs, including the ones mentioned here.

(Cover image: Rubinstein)

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November 8, 2009

Children’s books from the Roaring Twenties

Filed under: Art,History,Literature by Branko Collin @ 1:28 pm

Oh, to have been a child in the 1920s, when you had children’s books illustrated in the De Stijl style. Gouden Vlinders, the cover of which pictured above, contained verse written by S. Franke and illustrations by Lou Loebe.

Pointed out to us by Daddytypes.com who also discusses and links to a number of other illustrated Dutch children’s books he likes. All are hosted at Geheugenvannederland.nl, a website of the Royal Library.

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September 16, 2009

Jip en Janneke children’s books now in Persian

Filed under: Literature,Religion by Orangemaster @ 11:27 am

Islamic theology student Simin Rafati has translated all of the famous Dutch children’s books Jip en Janneke by Annie M.G. Schmidt into Persian. Jip en Janneke (in English, we say Jip and Janneke – J is pronounced like a Y), a boy and a girl who have adventures, have already been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Estonian and Latin.

The concept of Christmas was not an issue for the Iranian government who either allow or disallow the publishing of the book in Iran, “as Christmas is also celebrated by Christians in Iran,” Rafati explains. Sinterklaas, a traditional Dutch holiday, was no problem either. However, Jip en Janneke have a dog, Takkie and that was a big no-no. “Dogs have always been considered ‘unclean’ in Persian Islam. I argued that even though Takkie is a dog, he’s a dog from a very different culture.” And so Takkie could stay.

You’d expect Iranians to be less permissive than the British when it comes to the illustrations by Fiep Westendorp of Jip en Janneke. These instantly recognisable silhouettes were ingeniously chosen to make them as easy to print as possible for simpler printing presses. However, the British publisher found them ‘unsuitable’ for the British market as they looked like ‘little black children’ in the poor African sense of the word, and so the British use different illustrations.

(Link: wereldjournalisten.nl, Jip en Janneke (Dutch))

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May 14, 2008

Miffy and the village marketing scheme

Filed under: Design by Branko Collin @ 10:21 am

A little over 50 years ago Miffy, one of the Netherlands’ biggest export ‘products’, was introduced to the world by her creator Dick Bruna in a book that described how she lived in the dunes of Egmond aan Zee. The village now wants to turn itself into a “Nijntje” village (Dutch for Miffy and pronounced somewhere between NAYN-CHE and NINE-CHE). To do this the village association will place direction signs with a Miffy motif on the beach, and will build a Miffy boat that will be placed on the Nijntje aan Zee Pleintje. The latter is a pun, for “pleintje” is the diminutive of “plein,” square. The city of Utrecht already has a Nijntje Pleintje which was designed by Bruna’s son Marc.

The Nijntje aan Zee Pleintje will be located at the main beach entrance. The boat will be a pinck, a type of flat-bottom fishing vessel that was developed locally and used from the 17th through the 19th century when it stopped being competitive.

Via webregio.nl (Dutch). Source image: nijntje.nl.

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