GREAT BAY, St. Martin — It’s back to school for 2019. Teacher Judith’s class at The Bethesda Dutch School in Maryland is set to hear from St. Martin’s author Gerard van Veen.
It all started when Teacher Judith “heard of my book, Schoolboy in Wartime, just when she was planning to speak to her class of 10- and 11-year-olds about the Netherlands during World War II,” said Van Veen.
The Dutch language teacher then used material from Schoolboy in Wartime in her classroom. She also contacted the author “with much enthusiasm” and told him, “that the children were listening to her with ears and mouth open! She asked them to write down, in Dutch, some questions for me to answer,” said Van Veen.
“One little guy had eight questions!” said the author. “Some things that were extremely interesting for them: ‘Is he your uncle?’ ‘Is he still alive?’ ‘What does he look like?’” When Van Veen finished writing his answers the December holiday-break had set in and the children would have to wait until their Dutch lessons resumed in January.
Schoolboy in Wartime – Memories of My Early Years is autobiographical. The writing, in English, is mostly about Gerard van Veen’s childhood. His family’s experiences during World War II (1939 to 1945) in his native Alkmaar, during the German occupation of the Netherlands, are also highlighted.
“I’m happy that Teacher Judith, her students, and The Bethesda Dutch School are sharing the experiences of worlds away through Mr. Van Veen’s book, which was published in St. Martin,” said Jacqueline Sample of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).
Since its launch at the St. Martin Book Fair last June, HNP and Van Veen have been promoting the book on-island and abroad as unique reading for adults and children.
“In Schoolboy in Wartime senior citizens can get a clearer idea about writing their own life-changing childhood experiences. Children who experience war, major accidents, or natural disasters like hurricanes Irma and Maria, can see that they’re not alone. With this book, boys and girls can also feel for or empathize with children on their island and in other parts of the world who go through such hardships,” said Sample.
As for meeting with students from Maryland, USA, through their written questions and language lessons, Gerard van Veen said, “The human being is always searching and discovering.”
Photo caption: Author Gerard van Veen (R) and educator Mrs. Bernadine van Veen, with copies of Schoolboy in Wartime during “block party” in Philipsburg. (credit G. van Veen)