Bilingual children's book: Thuis bij Betty & Cat At Home

Thuis bij Betty & Cat At Home is a new book for bilingual children about the life of Betty, a Dutch-speaking dog, and Cat, who speaks English.

The book, written by Hennie Jacobs and illustrated by Madeleine van der Raad, was released in November last year and we received a review copy.

Targeting bilingual children -- and their relatives

Hennie Jacobs explains: "I originally targeted the book to grandparents, aunts and uncles of children being brought up bilingually - I thought they might feel left out of the bilingual experience, if their English wasn't so hot any more. It was meant to be read together. For example, one person taking on the role of the cat, the other the dog -- the book is not translated."

Hennie Jacobs herself became bilingual virtually overnight at the age of six as a Dutch immigrant to Montreal. An advertising copywriter, Hennie teaches English as a second language.

Betty and Cat really do exist, and the are the inspiration for the book. It is quite popular: "In fact, it turns out it's a big hit for mixed-language couples, in which the non-Dutch speaker may feel left out. We did a reading at The English Bookshop in Amsterdam in April, and that's who was there: mum's whose husbands are Dutch, whose kids are in Dutch schools, and who are learning Dutch. This book lets them participate, and builds confidence."

A review by 3-year old Stephanie

Stephanie, a bilingual 3-year old who we asked to do a review, greatly enjoyed the book. John, her father, explains: "Stephanie finished reading the book. It's a great concept, and it was fun to see how Betty the dog speaks Dutch and Cat English. The story is mainly about the difference between cats and dogs. Stephanie enjoys stories about animals, especially talking animals.

From my perspective as a father who is raising his daughter bilingually in an English-language environment, I noticed that Stephanie was a bit confused at first: normally I try hard to only speak Dutch with her and I make a point of always reading to her in Dutch. With that, switching language on every page was a little strange in the beginning. But in the same way as Dora Explorer (who speaks English and Spanish here in the U.S.), it turned out to be no problem at all for Stephanie."

Over-all, it's highly recommended, especially for parents of young polyglots!"

Plans for a series

The book is an easy read at 24 pages; subsequent books are meant to be 28 pages. Hennie says she is planning to write several more in the series: "There is a second written, In het Bos met Betty & Cat in the Forest, and a third, which I feel is a bit noir: Naar de Kennel met Betty & Cat in the Kennel."

Thuis bij Betty & Cat At Home
Hennie Jacobs and Madeleine van der Raad
November 2011
24 pages, $9.95 (shipping to the U.S.: $3.15)



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