A Boy in War

A Boy in War

by Jan De Groot
     
 

When Jan is seven, Nazis attack and take over Holland. At first, not much changes. Soon, though, war starts taking things away: important things like neighbors and friends, trust and respect, even clothing, fuel and food. Through it all, Jan is still a boy, finding ways to play with friends and paddle his sailing canoe in the canals. But he must also filch food

Overview

When Jan is seven, Nazis attack and take over Holland. At first, not much changes. Soon, though, war starts taking things away: important things like neighbors and friends, trust and respect, even clothing, fuel and food. Through it all, Jan is still a boy, finding ways to play with friends and paddle his sailing canoe in the canals. But he must also filch food and help protect his father's "guests" from the enemy. Then the enemy takes his father away. Jan and his mother are on the run. They dodge bombs, sleep in haystacks, work for their food... all the while desperately searching for refuge and hoping for normal life—and Pa—to someday, somehow, return.

Jan de Groot was born in 1932 in The Hague, Holland, and now lives in Langley, British Columbia. He regularly contributes articles to boating magazines, and he writes for De Krant, a Dutch newspaper distributed throughout the world.

Editorial Reviews

CM Magazine
"This memoir is filled with delightful accounts of boyhood activities like playing marbles, stealing food from a nearby farm accessed by canoe, and attending school with colourful classmates...Highly Recommended."
Resource Links
"[Will] be fascinating for olders teens to see that despite the war, childhood activities continued as parents tried to maintain as normal a life as possible for their children."
VOYA - Florence H. Munat
This World War II memoir begins in May 1940 when the author, then age seven, wakes to the sight of German soldiers parachuting into fields near his home in The Hague. Within a week, Holland is an occupied country. After the initial shock and fear, life for Jan's family—his parents and a brother twelve years older than he—settles down. School continues, including the production of elaborate puppet shows by Jan and his classmates. His father goes on working as a Dutch police officer, but gradually any semblance of normal life fades. Schools close. Older brother Folkert is sent to work in a German factory, but he returns home by using forged papers. Jan's father offers their home as a "safe house" for people fleeing the Nazis. A Jewish woman, hidden in their house for a year, betrays them; and Jan's father is sent to a concentration camp. Shortages of food, electricity, and wood in the cities send many fleeing to the countryside, including Jan and his mother. After walking many miles, sleeping in haystacks and shelters, bartering chores for food, they find work and lodging with a kind farm family. When the war ends, they wend their way home and are elated to find Folkert; however, a priest arrives to say that Jan's father died after the liberation, and their hearts are broken. The story is told simply and effectively from a child's point of view. It contains details of the physical hardships and emotional turmoil experienced by citizens during war. The relative bounty of farm life makes a compelling contrast with the extreme shortages in cities. Pronunciation guides of Dutch names and words are included. In the epilogue, the author reflects on why war happens, asking ifhumankind will ever learn from these experiences. He suggests to his readers that they can be part of the answer. Reviewer: Florence H. Munat
VOYA - Mary Ann Darby
Born and raised in The Hague, Jan de Groot is seven when the Nazis invade The Netherlands in 1940. At first, Jan continues to sail on the waters and go to school, but he also listens closely as his father explains there will be hidden guests in their home about whom no one can know. His older brother is arrested and taken to Germany, and Jan's family is fearful, but his brother, an artist with a flair for forgery, creates the necessary paperwork to return home. Later, however, as the family is feeling the pinch of limited living supplies, Jan's father is arrested in connection with the "guests" he had been helping smuggle to Switzerland. Eventually Jan and his mother leave for the northeastern part of The Netherlands, hoping that they will be able to find food more easily out of the city, as residents of The Hague are literally starving to death. Their journey on train and foot illuminates the generosity of many along the way, and eventually takes them to a relative's home where they watch the Canadian troops come to liberate them. Although he, his mother, and brother are reunited, his father does not survive. Students looking for historical facts to fill out ideas alluded to in Lois Lowry's fictional Number the Stars (Houghton Mifflin, 1989) or a gentler memoir than Elie Wiesel's Night (Hill and Wang, 1960) can get a good sense of wartime living conditions in The Netherlands as well as the weight of loss of food, clothing, basic necessities, friends, and family. The role of the Canadians in the war is also highlighted. Although the first few chapters feel a bit choppy, the story hits its pace and becomes captivating as it continues. Reviewer: Mary Ann Darby

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781550391671
Publisher:
Sono Nis Press
Publication date:
04/01/2009
Pages:
186
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile:
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Jan de Groot was born in 1932 in The Hague, Holland. He lived through the German occupation of Holland in the Second World War, and later, at the age of eighteen, he became a merchant mariner and roamed the world by sea. In 1957 he emigrated to Canada and in 1960 married a young Dutch woman who had also emigrated to Canada. They had two children, and Jan pursued a landlubbing career for thirteen years in the corporate world. In 1970, he returned to a seagoing life and operated a charter yacht in the Caribbean until 1980, divorcing and remarrying along the way. Jan is a certified master of seagoing vessels, and upon his return to Canada in 1980 he became a marine surveyor, inspecting ships and yachts for prospective purchasers, banks, and insurance companies.
Jan is now a widower and lives in Langley, B.C. He regularly contributes articles to boating magazines, and he writes for De Krant, a Dutch newspaper distributed throughout the world mainly to Dutch emigrants. He has also self-published Buying the Right Boat, a how-to book for yachting enthusiasts, and two books about his adventures in the Caribbean, No Shoes Allowed and Gone to Come Back.

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