Meindert De Jong was an award winning children’s book author. He did not start writing books until he was 32 years old. He did so, because a local librarian felt he had the potential to be a good writer. De Jong’s first book, entitled, “The Big Goose and the Little White Duck”, was published in 1938. The timing was fortuitous because the demand for children’s books was probably not strong during the abysmal economic depression of the 1930’s. And in 1938, there might have been some hope for better times.
During the World War II years, De Jong joined the United States Army Air Corps, and served in China. He fortunately was able to survive that dark time period, and following the war, he returned to writing children’s books.
De Jong was an educated man at the age of 32 in 1938. Although he was a child of apparently poor immigrants, he was able to go to college, and he graduated from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. But during the depression, work was scarce, and De Jong supported himself by working on a variety of jobs. The term “variety of jobs” may not be sufficient or descriptive. De Jong worked as a college professor, probably as an adjunct professor, as a grave digger, as a mason, as a tin smith, as a sexton in a church, and as a bricklayer. In other words, he was a man of all trades. But fortuitously, De Jong then met a local librarian, who steered him into the direction of writing, from where he was able to become a highly successful author of children’s books.
A measure of his success was the number of prominent book awards he received during his life time. The most prestigious award, in 1962, was the Hans Christian Andersen International Children’s Book Medal. The award was for the contributions by De Jong to the literature for young people. De Jong was the first ever American author to be awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal.
Other honors awarded to De Jong were for specific books authored by him. In 1954, two of De Jong’s books entitled, “Shadrach” and “Hurry Home Candy”, were both named Newberry Honor Books. The following year, in 1955, the De Jong book entitled, “The Wheel on the School”, was awarded the Newberry Medal. The book covered a story about six youngsters in a small Dutch fishing village. So in the brief period of two years, three of De Jong’s books were recognized for their contributions to children’s literature.
In 1956, the De Jong book entitled, “The House of Sixty Fathers”, was awarded the Josette Frank Award. The award was also named the Children’s Book Award of the Child Study Association. In the following year, in 1957, the same De Jong book was also named the Newberry Honor Book. The plethora of awards, for the 1950 decade, was not over yet. In 1959, the De Jong book entitled, “Along Came a Dog”, was named a Newbury Honor Book.
The series of honors awarded to De Jong was capped off in 1962, when he was awarded the National Book Award, for his book entitled, “Journey from Peppermint Street”. The book was a story of the wanderings of a 7 year old Dutch boy. As a 7 year old, De Jong was still living in Holland, before migrating to the United States with his parents in 1914. Could the story have been somewhat autobiographical?
The above listed seven books were by no means the only books written and published by De Jong. The De Jong titles listed below are still available to day through Alibris.com. Considering that De Jong passed away in 1991, and stopped writing in 1986, it is rather amazing how well the De Jong books have stood up in popularity with the younger generation. Here is the list, among others, of some of the available De Jong books: “A Horse Came Running”, “Easter Cat”, “Smoke above the Lane”, “The Tower by the Sea”, “Dirk’s Dog, Bello”, “Puppy Summer”, “Nobody Plays with a Cabbage”, “The Little Cow and the Turtle”, “The Singing Hill”, and “Good Luck Days”.
Meindert De Jong was born in Wierum, in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands, on March 4, 1906. He immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1914. He retired from writing in 1986, and he passed away from emphysema on July 16, 1991, at the age of 85. He was survived by his wife, the former Gwendolyn Jonkman Zandstra, and by a brother, Corneil De Jong.
Meindert De Jong, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meindert_DeJong
Books by Meindert De Jong, http://www.alibris.com/search/books/author/DeJong,Meindert
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