Title & Author: Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
Summary: Katje, a young Dutch girl trying with her family to survive with very little after the end of WWII, receives an unexpected package from America. With it, Katje forms a friendship with Rosie, who from very far away, helps Katje’s family and the rest in their small village not only survive, but find faith in humanity again after the war.
Reference: Borden, L. & Kroeger, M. K. (2001). Fly high! The story of Bessie Coleman. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
My Impressions: This historical fiction book is one of my favorites because of its emphasis on story. It is not about the aftermath of WWII, or the plight of Europeans, as much as it is a story of true human connection. The fact that it is based on true events in the author’s mother’s life makes it all the more intriguing.
Professional Review: /* Starred Review */ “Inspired by actual events, Fleming's (Ben Franklin's Almanac , reviewed below) engaging story of post-WWII Holland serves as a potent—and merry—lesson in generosity. The residents of war-ravaged Olst "patched and repatched their worn-thin clothing, and they went without soap or milk, sugar or new shoes." Through the Children's Aid Society, an American child, Rosie, sends a box of provisions to Katje, a windfall the girl gladly shares with the postman and her mother. Her thank-you note inspires a larger package, which she aportions to her neighbors, and so on, until sleds of provisions from Rosie's town arrive for all the residents of Olst. Fleming deftly dramatizes the story with lively conversations among the townspeople and letters between the two girls. In an outstanding debut, Dressen-McQueen immerses readers in post-war Holland, crafting an entirely credible world of cobblestone streets, Dutch architecture and vintage clothing. Primitive in its flattened perspectives, these earth-toned illustrations (which progressively brighten as the situation does) resonate with joy and fellowship. The girls' letters and small, painted "snapshots" of Rosie's world drop into full-bleed panoramas of Katje's town. That is, until the story's end, when the residents of Olst return a gift to Rosie, whose jubilant receipt of the package fills the spread. Ages 4-8.”
Reference: Boxes for Katje. (2003, Aug. 18). [Review of the book Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming]. Publisher’s Weekly, 250 (33), 77. Retrieved from http://publishersweekly.com
Library Uses: This book would be a perfect fit to help young students discuss how war affects people, and how a community can help in the aftermath of war. This would be a good tie-in for a group completing a community service project, writing letters to soldiers and/or collecting items for war refugees.