Books & literature


Childhood pleasures: Dutch children in the seventeenth century


In the seventeenth century, Dutch merchants and traders conquered the world seas, and the lasting legacy of this period can be found in paintings, writings, and historic cities throughout the Netherlands. This wonderful new book by Donna R. Barnes and Peter G. Rose explores a fun but lesser known aspect of seventeenth-century Holland: what was it like to be a child in the Dutch Golden Age?

The book is structured around 54 paintings, prints and drawings of children's activities. After introductions by the two authors - whose backgrounds as a professor of education and as a food historian complement each other well - the paintings are discussed in eight groups: Infancy; Saint Nicholas; Celebrations and Music; Toys and Games; Animals as Pets and Companions; Inventing Fun, Games, and Mischief; Shopping for Food Treats and Winter Activities: Outdoors. The book concludes with a short biography of the painters and artists whose works were used, and finally includes several recipes. Those are explicitly chosen to be suitable for cooking with children.

We received a review copy of the book, and spoke with Mrs. Rose. She explains: "My colleague Donna Barnes has always been very interested in how children were raised in the Netherlands in the 17th century. It is clear that a lot of attention was given to child rearing. When Donna approached me for this book, I was immediately excited. I greatly enjoyed looking at these paintings and drawings, and figuring out what they were cooking or eating ".

The sheer joy of eating a crunchy, sweet carrot.

This book is full of interesting facts and pieces of history, and the illustrations are beautiful. The authors are well-known in their fields, and their research is impeccable -- so this is a very entertaining book. The joy the authors had in writing it is apparent on every page. Mrs. Rose: "My favorite drawing is that of a young boy at the farmer's market. On his face you can see the sheer joy of eating a crunchy, sweet carrot".

The book has background stories for each of the illustrations. For example, in the Saint Nicholas section there is a short history of the speculaas cookie, which also provides a possible explanation for the name speculaas. For modern-day parents, it is fun to see the baby-walker on wheels (loopwagen) and the play chair (speelstoel), from which the baby had the freedom to "rule" his or her siblings.

The painting The Newborn Baby by Matthijs Naiveu is used to explore childbirth and rituals around it. Dutch readers will see that the contemporary "beschuit with muisjes" tradition traces back to the 17th century, when sugar-covered anise seeds were served after the birth.

The other illustrations in the book explore games and toys such as kites, marbles, dolls and doll houses, as well as outdoor activities such as horseback riding and ice skating. Dutch cooks will love the recipe for the "Doornick Apple Tart", from a 1667 cookbook -- it is very similar to modern Dutch apple pie recipes, and provides a culinary bridge to the feasts of four centuries ago.

About the authors

Donna R. Barnes is professor of education at Hofstra University. She has lectured on Dutch art and daily life at the Amsterdam Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, and the Center for the Study of the Golden Age at the University of Amsterdam. She has curated seven exhibits of seventeenth-century art in the US and the Netherlands. Food historian Peter G. Rose is the author of The Sensible Cook: Dutch Foodways in the Old and New World and six other books. In 2002 Barnes and Rose collaborated Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and Life.

This book makes an excellent gift for new parents or grandparents, Dutch immigrants, and anyone interested in the ways of the Dutch. The background stories for the illustrations make it a book you'll reach for again and again, and the practical and fun recipes in the back allow for fun parent-and-child cooking adventures. It is a must-have for those interested in Dutch life in the 17th century.

Childhood pleasures: Dutch children in the seventeenth century
Donna R. Barnes and Peter G. Rose
Paperback, 184 pages, $29.95
ISBN 978-0-8156-1002-1

Two new books with Dutch-American biographies


Two new e-books about famous Dutch-Americans are now available on Amazon. The author, Professor Emeritus Carl Pegels of the University at Buffalo, is a well-known researcher of Dutch-Americans who has written numerous books and articles.

Last year Mr. Pegels published "Prominent Dutch American Entrepreneurs", which had an emphasis on business people and entrepreneurs. The two new books, which are only available electronically, expand the scope of the biographies and discuss Dutch-American who became famous through arts, science and sports, and government, military, history and philosophy respectively.

The book includes famous names such as Bogart, Brando, Fonda and Clint Eastwood. Some of the subjects are born in the Netherlands; others are more remote descendants of immigrants.

In Mr. Pegel's words: "The book honors those who have contributed to the development of the United States from colonial days until the present at both the governmental level as well as at the private level. In other words, the book is a statement about the history of Dutch Americans and the imprint they have left on this country. In many instances they are still doing so today."

Fascinating snapshot of Dutch-American lives

The biographies give a fascinating snapshot of Dutch-American lives throughout the ages. Starting in the 1700's, the life-stories of these Americans with such different walks of lives provide insight in how immigrants and descendants of immigrants made America their home and were successful in their fields.

Prominent Dutch American Achievers: Government, Military, History and Philosophy - E-book on
Prominent Dutch American Achievers: Arts, Science and Sports - E-book on

C. Carl Pegels, University at Buffalo
$2.99 each.

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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