Traditional Dutch shoes © Author Adventures

Meindert DeJong, Michigan Author of Children’s Books

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 eight 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.

Places To Visit

Today, Calvin College has a collection of Meindert DeJong’s papers. You can contact the Heritage Hall Archive at the Hekman Library and request to arrange a visit to view the papers.

To get a flavor of the Dutch world which so influenced the writings of Meindert DeJong and his brother, visit the Holland Museum at 31 W. 10th Street in nearby Holland, Michigan. Throughout the city there are also a great many other Dutch treats to discover and explore.

The Meindert DeJong stops are midway destinations on the Michigan Author Adventures Trail.

Rebecca Blake Beech