By the shores

by Andrea Elizabeth

Whole book emersion is definitely a more connective way to learn. This year my 5th grader and I are learning about the eastern hemisphere in Sonlight’s Core 5 curriculum. Btw, when I mentioned our barn homeschool excavation, I was not including our Sonlight literature in the one-ton Goodwill pile. These, which I will keep, are in the house. I like how multifaceted literature can be in that it communicates philosophy, history, sociology, psychology, anthropology and archeology, not to mention language skills. It is the latter skill that I am writing about here. As much as I enjoyed and learned from our previous read-alouds, mostly written by American visitors to China, a couple of which I’ve mentioned in comments and such, I am overjoyed with the first 13 pages of our new book today, The House of Sixty Fathers. It is written by Meindert Dejong, who I thought was from China, but he’s actually from the Netherlands:

Meindert De Jong sometimes spelled as Meindert de Jong or Dejong (4 March 1906 – 16 July 1991) was an award winning author of children’s books. He was born in the village of Wierum, of the province of Friesland, in the Netherlands.


De Jong immigrated to the United States with his family in 1914. He attended Dutch Calvinist secondary schools and Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and entered the University of Chicago, but left without graduating.

He held various jobs during the Great Depression, and it was at the suggestion of a local librarian that he began writing children’s books. His first book The Big Goose and the Little White Duck was published in 1938.

He wrote several more books before joining the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II serving in China.[1] After the war he resumed writing, and for several years resided in Mexico. He returned for a time to Michigan. After settling in North Carolina, he returned to Michigan for the final years of his life.

Six of De Jong’s books were illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

For some reason our previous books were a little hard for me to read. I kept stumbling over some of the sentence structure. Part of my problem in sight reading, which I also encounter at Church and in playing the piano, is that I don’t look ahead. When I anticipate what’s coming, I’m much smoother. But this book’s language leaps off the page in form as well as content, making reading as easy as falling off a log. I really like alliterative sentences written for sound and rhythm. Here’s a sample from the beginning,

Rain raised the river. Rain beat down on the sampan where it lay in a long row of sampans tied to the riverbank. Rain drummed down on the mats that were shaped in the form of an arched roof over the middle of the sampan. It clattered hard on the long oars lying on top of the roof of mats.

Then at the end of the section,

Rain raised the river. The sampan swayed and bobbed on the rising water. Voices drifted from the other sampans in the long row of sampans and muttered among the drumming rain. Tien Pao closed his eyes and almost slept, and yet he didn’t sleep. He sat sagged against the mats, dreamily remembering the hard days just past, the hard journey.

Channeling “Hiawatha” perhaps?