Meindert DeJong was the prize-winning author of 27 children’s books. Six of his books were illustrated by Maurice Sendak (who wrote and illustrated everyone’s favorite scary picture book, Where the Wild Things Are).
Meindert DeJong was born in a fishing village in the Netherlands in l906 and lived there until he was 8 years old. His most famous book, The Wheel on the School, was set in a village in the Netherlands.
In l914, the DeJong family immigrated to the US and settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and became part of a large Dutch immigrant community which had its own schools, churches, and neighborhoods (http://www.calvin.edu/hh/origins/Spring08_26_1.pdf). They had some difficult times adjusting to their new life in America. Meindert became an outstanding student, though, and his high school teacher saw his talent for words and encouraged him to become a writer.
Meindert DeJong and his brother David went on to Calvin College in Grand Rapids. They found the atmosphere to be too strict and often engaged in pranks and other shenanigans to lighten things up. Because they looked so much alike, they sometimes took each other’s tests! Interestingly, David DeJong later became a children’s author, too.
To get a flavor of the Dutch world which so influenced the writings of Meindert DeJong and his brother, visit the Holland Museum in nearby Holland, Michigan. Throughout the city there are also a great many other Dutch treats to discover and explore.
Calvin College is our fifth stop and the Holland Museum is our sixth stop on the Michigan Author Adventures Trail.
Rebecca Blake Beech