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Simple seeds of friendship grow into something extraordinary
After World War II there is little left in Katje's town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom "thick and bright," Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje's street to deliver a mysterious box – a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What's inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks – beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.
This inspiring story, with strikingly original art, is based on the author's mother's childhood and will show young readers that they, too, can make a difference.
Boxes for Katje is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year and a 2006 California Young Readers Medal for Picture Books for Older Readers winner
Candace Fleming is the author of Giant Squid, an ALA Notable Book and Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, and numerous other books for children. She lives in Oak Park, Illinois.
From the Author:
I have always been a storyteller. Even before I could write my name, I could tell a good tale. And I told them all the time. As a preschooler, I told my neighbors all about my three-legged cat named Spot. In kindergarten, I told my classmates about the ghost that lived in my attic. And in first grade, I told my teacher, Miss Harbart, all about my family’s trip to Paris, France.
I told such a good story that people always thought I was telling the truth. But I wasn’t. I didn’t have a three-legged cat or a ghost in my attic, and I’d certainly never been to Paris, France. I simply enjoyed telling a good story . . . and seeing my listener’s reaction.
Sure, some people might have said I was a seven-year-old fibber. But not my parents. Instead of calling my stories "fibs" they called them "imaginative." They encouraged me to put my stories down on paper. I did. And amazingly, once I began writing, I couldn’t stop. I filled notebook after notebook with stories, poems, plays. I still have many of those notebooks. They’re precious to me because they are a record of my writing life from elementary school on.
In second grade, I discovered a passion for language. I can still remember the day my teacher, Ms. Johnson, held up a horn-shaped basket filled with papier-mâché pumpkins and asked the class to repeat the word "cornucopia." I said it again and again. I tasted the word on my lips. I tested it on my ears. That afternoon, I skipped all the way home from school chanting "Cornucopia! Cornucopia!" From then on, I really began listening to words -- to the sounds they made, and the way they were used, and how they made me feel. I longed to put them together in ways that were beautiful and yet told a story.
As I grew, I continued to write stories. But I never really thought of becoming an author. Instead, I went to college, where I discovered yet another passion -- history. I didn’t realize it then, but studying history was really just an extension of my love of stories. After all, some of the best stories are true ones -- tales of heroism and villainy made more incredible by the fact they really happened.
After graduation, I got married and had children. I read to them a lot, and that’s when I discovered the joy and music of children’s books. I simply couldn’t get enough of them. With my two sons in tow, I made endless trips to the library. I read stacks of books. I found myself begging, "Just one more, pleeeease!" while my boys begged for lights-out and sleep. Then it struck me. Why not write children’s books? It seemed the perfect way to combine all the things I loved -- stories, musical language, history, and reading. I couldn’t wait to get started.
But writing children’s books is harder than it sounds. For three years, I wrote story after story. I sent them to publisher after publisher. And I received rejection letter after rejection letter. Still, I didn’t give up. I kept trying until finally one of my stories was pulled from the slush pile and turned into a book. My career as a children’s author had begun.
“Fleming 's engaging story of post-WWII Holland serves as a potent and merry lesson in generosity. . .Dressen-McQueen immerses readers in post-war Holland, crafting an entirely credible world of cobblestone streets, Dutch architecture and vintage clothing.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly
“As heartwarming and uplifting as a bouquet of tulips.” —Kirkus Reviews