Read an Excerpt
SEARCHING FOR ADVENTURE
Andrew stared down at his broken wooden shoes. He had cracked his klompen over the head of his friend Kees. He was in trouble now. Andrew and Kees had been playing war. But for now, their favorite game was forgotten. Like most boys living in Holland before World War II,
Andrew couldn't afford more than one pair of klompen. So he expected a scolding when he took his broken shoe to his father, a blacksmith.
"Andrew, you must be more careful!" Because his father was mostly deaf, he spoke loudly. Andrew nodded in response to his father's words, but being careful wasn't something he wanted to do. He dreamed of future adventures as a spy behind enemy lines, a secret agent caught up in sabotage and danger.
For now he had to make his own adventures. Each Sunday Andrew's family walked to church and sat near the front, where his papa could hear better. But the pew couldn't hold both of his parents, his two sisters, and all four brothers. So Andrew always let the others go in first. Then, pre-tending to look for an open seat on the back pews of the church, he would slip out the rear door and spend his church time playing in the fields or, in the winter, skating down frozen canals.
Just in time for the end of the service, Andrew would sneak back in. As the congregation filed out of the church, he gathered information he could use later. If someone commented, "Pastor, you made a good point about Psalm 120," that would be Andrew's ammunition. At home later, he would turn to his father and, in a very loud voice, so his father--and everyone else in the house-- could hear, he would say, "Wasn't that a good point the pastor made about Psalm 120?"
No one ever seemed to notice that Andrew rarely stayed in the church service.
Among Andrew's favorite "enemies" in his adventures was a family named Whetstra. They were the first people in Witte to talk about the Germans and the possibility of a real war. No one else wanted to even think about that. Andrew thought Mr. Whetstra's ominous warnings about the Nazis were tiresome. And the Whetstras were outspoken Christians whose talk of "the Lord willing" and "God bless you" irritated Andrew.
One day Andrew walked by his neighbors' house, looked in the window, and saw Mrs. Whetstra putting a pan of cookies into her wood-burning stove. Then he caught sight of a new pane of glass, leaning against the house, waiting for Mr. Whetstra to install it. This was Andrew's chance to get the Whetstras and have an adventure doing it! He crept up to the house and got the pane of glass. Then he sneaked around back, where, like all the houses in Witte, a ladder led up to the thatched roof. Andrew climbed the ladder and quietly slid the glass over the chimney.
Andrew quickly backed down the ladder and hid across the street to watch. He didn't have to wait long. Smoke backed up into the kitchen and billowed out the window. Mrs. Whetstra screamed; Mr. Whetstra ran outside and looked up at the chimney. As Mr. Whetstra climbed the ladder to remove the pane of glass, Andrew grinned at his secret victory over his "enemies."
Andrew's family had four boys: Bastian, Ben, Andrew, and Cornelius. He also had two sisters, Geltje and Maartje. Andrew especially loved his oldest brother Bastian or Bas as everyone called him. Bas was six years older than Andrew, but he wasn't like the other children. He had never learned to talk or dress himself because he was developmentally disabled, which means he had a hard time learning. Each morning, rain or shine, Bas wandered out of their home and down the street to an elm tree. There he spent his days standing and smiling as people went by, until one of his brothers would come to lead him home for supper. People would nod back and say, sadly, "Ah, Bas." Those were the only words Bas ever learned to say, having heard them repeated so often.
Most evenings, Andrew's family would gather around the small pump organ in the parlor of their home. Bas would crawl under the keyboard and press his ear to the baseboard to listen to Papa play as many wrong notes as right ones.
From underneath the keyboard, Bas could not see Papa's fingers on the keys. But it didn't matter. After several songs, Bas would stand, and Papa would let Bas take his place on the bench. Bas couldn't read the music and often managed to get the hymnal turned upside down. But he played the songs perfectly, with such beauty and feeling, that neighbors would gather by the windows to listen.
Andrew's brother Ben shared a loft bedroom with him. Ben earned money running errands for neighbors or helping the schoolteacher with her garden. He stored the pennies he earned in a piggy bank kept in his corner of the room.
One day Andrew decided that his next adventure would be to relieve his brother of some of that hidden treasure. It took Andrew about fifteen very tense minutes to slip enough pennies from the penny bank to equal one guilder. That part had been exciting! But then Andrew realized he had a problem. A guilder was worth twenty-five cents--a lot of money for a child in the 1930s. If he took that much to the candy store to spend, the storeowner would ask where Andrew had gotten the money.
So Andrew came up with a plan. The next day he showed the money to the schoolmistress Miss Meekle, saying he had found it in the street.
"Can I keep it?" Andrew asked.
"You must take it to the police. They will tell you what to do."
Andrew hadn't counted on that. But he summoned his courage and took the money to the police station, hoping nothing would give him away.
However, the police chief seemed to believe him. He took the money, sealed it in an envelope with Andrew's name on it, and told him that if no one claimed it within a year, it would be his.
A year later Andrew claimed the money and made his trip to the candy store. But during that year, Ben had never missed his guilder. That made the episode seem less like an adventure and more like common theft.