After completing her studies, Trude de Jong (Voorburg, 1946) taught Dutch at a secondary school. Since 1979 she has built up a varied oeuvre with books for children of different ages, whilst also regularly producing scripts for the TV programme Sesame Street.
Out of the latter came Lola the bear ('Lola de beer, 1987), a collection of short stories about a girl, who, together with her cheeky teddy bear, gets involved in comical situations drawn from the world of a pre-school child.
Also the stories in Queen Bee (Koningin Bee, 1998) are written for children of that age. Queen Bee and her children princess Bibi and prince Baltasar get involved in a lot of witty and exciting adventures in their beehive.
Psychologically well-structured is Aram en de bende van de boomstam ('Aram and the Tree-Trunk Gang', 1984) in which Aram, a powerless victim of bullying, rather sadistically takes it out on enormous insects that haunt his dreams.
In more recent years De Jong has written children's detectives stories set at the beginning of this century. The two main characters, girls, play the role of detective: Moord in Amsterdam ('Murder in Amsterdam' 1990), Moord aan de Rivièra ('Murder at the Rivièra', 1993), and Moord in Istanbul ('Murder at
In Een verboden kind ( 'A forbidden child', 1995) the scene is set for the year of 1954 and 10-year-old Erica must keep her footing in an environment which for some inexplicable reason is hostile towards her.
Everyone except her seems to know that her dead father was a German soldier. They call her mother a moffenhoer (jerry whore). At school she is tormented and pointed at; she finds it hard to make friends and those friends she does make may suddenly refuse to play with her anymore. Erica knows that there's a
secret, but apparently it's so enormous that her mother and aunt, who together look after her, cannot or will not talk about it. Her imagination provides its own answers to questions that are never asked and grow into an obsession. Only when the family breaks away from the suffocating Hague suburb to open a boarding house in the seaside town of Scheveningen, and when mother takes her daughter into her confidence and tells her about her forbidden love, is there room for a new beginning.
De Jong's book 'Een palm op de Veluwe' ( 'A palm on the Veluwe', 1999) subtly describes the relationship of foster-child Lily with foster-parent Gijs. The book, Gijs' diary, shows us that Gijs might be in for more than he bargained. He learns to face up to difficulties all mothers and fathers experience.
While the diary continuously shows us Gijs' story, the drawings by Georgien Overwater portray Lily's often cynical views on his raising methods.
Gijs is a typical anti-hero, his diary reflects his ever doubting moments. Reversing the perspective is a stroke of genius that gives us an unconventional view of raising children.
Both Lola de beer en Aram en de Bende van de Boomstam have been awarded the Silver Slate Pencils award. Een verboden kind has been awarded the international Janusz Korckzak Literary Prize.
The sun was shining. It was real sandpit weather today. Noor got her bucket and spade and plastic moulds and went downstairs with Lola under her arm.
Christian from the flat below was there too. He was already in the sandpit. Noor put Lola down on the sand.
'Do you want whipped cream or chocolate cake?' she asked. Lola said nothing.
'Lola! Say something!'
'Noor,' whispered Lola, 'who is that?'
'No, silly goose, there!' said Lola, pointing. A brown toy bear was sitting on the seat.
'That's Christian's bear.'
'Put me beside him!' Lola hissed.
'I was going to play with you,' said Noor.
'Do as I say, girl. Take me to that handsome bear at once!'
Noor put Lola on the seat beside Christian's bear.
'Hallo-o-o…' said Lola.
'Good morning, miss,' said the bear.
Noor ran to the sandpit and played with Christian all afternoon without once looking at Lola.
At half-past five Dad called them in to eat.
Noor went over to the seat where the bears were talking.
'Yes.' Noor picked Lola up.
'Goodbye, Romeo,' Lola called.
'Adieu!' said the bear in a deep, growly voice.
'Did you have fun?' asked Noor, as they ran home.
'Fun? Fun? It was fantastic!' cried Lola. 'His real name is Harry, but he likes to be called Romeo. We kissed each other at least seventy-five times, didn't you see?'
'I'm in love!' cried Lola. 'We've arranged to meet by the sandpit at three-thirty tomorrow. Ring Christan up and tell him!'
Noor laughed. When she got in she rang up Christian straight away. Lola wanted to talk to Romeo on the telephone.
'So bears have to telephone nowadays as well!' said Dad. 'Crazy, eh?'
'Yes,' said Noor. 'Lola is crazy. Crazy about Romeo.'
'Your majesty!' a little bee-voice called out.
'Your majesty, wake up!'
'What is it?', Queen Bee asked, still half asleep.
All the bees had spent the entire winter inside the beehive. They had all snuggled up to each other, day and night, so as to stay nice and warm.
And Queen Bee had been there, right in the very centre of the hive with her two children, crown-princess Bibi and Prince Baltasar.
'The sun is shining! Spring has arrived!' the little bee called out.
All the other bees started buzzing with excitement.
'May we go outside?', Bibi and Baltazar called out.
'Now everybody wait one minute!' Queen Bee pushed her crown so that it sat straight on her head again.
'First we shall investigate to see if it is safe. Surely you remember your grandmother's story?'
'You've told us that one at least a hundred times!' said Bibi. 'Please mummy, do go now!'
Bee crept to the exit of the beehive. She felt the warm rays of the sun on her body, and she looked at the flowers and the blossoms that were out. She deeply inhaled the air that was rich with the lovely scent of herbs. Then she turned around and returned in her most queenly manner. All the bees stared at her. Not one of them dared say anything. For once even Bibi held her tongue.
'Beloved bee people', said Bee. 'We hereby declare spring to have begun!'
All the bees called out together: Zzooommm!
And then they all tried to get out at the same time. They crawled all over each other in their rush for
'We get to go first! Don't forget we are the royal family!', Bibi shouted.
'My dear girl, they won't hear you,' said Bee.
'We shall just calmly remain here until everyone has left. A princess simply does not push to get to the head of the queue!
'Please mummy, do let me go now!' cried Baltazar
'Well, then a prince certainly isn't allowed to push to the front,' said Bibi.
Bee sniffed the air. 'Good heavens Baltasar, whatever have you done?'
'He pooped!' Bibi shouted. 'Pffaw, what a stink!'
'I just could not keep it inside any longer,' Baltasar whispered. His head turned as red as a ripe tomato.
'We have all had to keep it in,' said Bee. 'For the full three months. Otherwise the hive would have simply become too disgusting for words!'
'It is only because I couldn't get out in time, 'Baltasar sobbed.
'Well, it is just a minor accident,'said Bee.'We shall just have to clean it up. And on this occasion 'we' means the three of us.'
'But I thought that is what we have servants for?' Bibi grumbled.
Bee looked at her severely.
Only when everything was clean again they went outside. Bee quickly found herself a quiet spot behind some leaves on a branch.
When she was done she sighed: 'Oh, what a relief! Better out than in!'
She looked around. Bibi was doing her business while sitting on a shrub with a contented look on her face. Baltasar had hidden himself inside a flower head and sneezed.
'Poor darling, it's his hay fever again,' thought Bee.
The other bees all flew about and dropped their litle brown messages.
The lady from the next garden had just hung her freshly washed sheets out on the line. Many of the bees went and sat on the beautiful white sheets, but when they took off again they left hundreds of little brown spots. The lady came running out of the house.
'Away with you all!' she yelled. But she was afraid to hit out at the bees for fear of getting stung by them. Queen Bee calmly remained seated on her branch. She knew that if she would call her bees now they would not listen to her anyway. They were just too busy doing their business of the moment. Bee hid her face behind one of her hands and laughed so that no one would see or hear. Because a Queen shouldn't really be seen laughing when her people are pooping all over the place!
'Has the red carpet been rolled out?' the bees called. 'And is the choir in position? 'There she is: The queen of the Caper bees. Bow down low and sing, everybody!'
Bee was waiting by the entrance to the hive. She made a deep curtesy when the fat bee-queen entered, and she said: 'You are most welcome, your majesty.'
'What's that you are saying, dear?' the queen called out. 'This bloomin' choir is making such a racket I can't hear a thing your're saying!'
Bee raised a royal hand and the choir was silent, looking deeply offended.
'You are most welcome, Queen Nettie. We are most honoured to receive you in our house.'
Nettie looked around. 'Why thank you, Queen Bee. What a darling little hive you
Little hive? thought Bee, but she said very politely:'You must be tired after your long flight. Won't you please sit down.'
'Are you sure this little old chair isn't going to collapse right under me?' Nettie asked.
'That is a very strong little chair,' said Bee. 'Even an elephant could sit on it.'
'By which you mean what exactly?' aked Nettie with a mean look in her eyes.
'Oh, nothing at all! Just that you are looking so very ... healthy, shall we say? Would you care for a glass of honey?'
Nettie nodded, and one of Bee's ladies poured her a little glass. Nettie smelled at the honey. 'I do hope it's not clover? I think clover-honey is just so vulgar!'
'Indeed not, this is knotweed-honey'.
'Never heard of it. But anyway.'
Nettie took one sip and immediately spat it all out again.
All over Bee's brand new dress.
'This muck tastes of cough syrup!' she screamed. 'Lady-in-waiting, you will immediately bring me some of that Linden blossom-honey that I brought with me.'
Bee took a very deep breath. 'We are so sorry,' she said. 'Please allow us to present our children to you: princess Bibi and prince Baltasar.'
Bibi and Baltasar both bowed very deeply.
'Well, so those are your children, are they? They are so thin that at first I thought you were presenting a couple of ghosts,' said Nettie. 'Are they not feeding you enough, dears. Don't you never suffer no hunger?'
'That should be: Are you ever hungry,' said Bee. 'Never no hunger is wrong, actually.'
'You are looking down on me, aren't you?' Nettie started screaming. 'Just because I wasn't born a queen like you. Just because I had to start life like an ordinary working drone. You are stuck up, you are!'
'We do not care about humble beginnings' said Bee. 'But you find our beehive too small, and our furniture too old. You spit honey all over our new dress and you insult our children! This is not how a true queen behaves! And now you will kindly leave our hive this instant!'
'I wouldn't stay here for another minute if you begged me!' Queen Nettie marched off with her nose in the air, closely followed by her ladies.
'Now we may have been a touch impolite here' said Bee. 'But we certainly are very glad that she is gone.'
'When I grow up, do I get to chase away evil queens too?' Bibi asked. 'Because in that case, I think it might be rather nice to be a queen after all!'
Every year on the 31st of August all the bees had a day off work. They were celebrating Bee's birthday. The hive had been decorated all over with lovely flags of yellow and black. The bee-children were allowed to sell their old toys and other things, while the older bees sat about eating, drinking and chatting. A bee-band was playing all Bee's favourite songs.
Bee was sitting with Bibi, Baltasar, Gran and aunt Bumba. Full of contentment she looked at all the presents she had received. Baltasar had made a lovely drawing for his mother.He had even made a lovely frame for it from little twigs, feathers and daisies.
Bibi saw Bee looking at the frame. She asked:'Don't you think my gift is ever so much nicer? A real little mirror that you can look into all day long!'
'It is magnificent,'said Bee. 'How did you ever guess that we always wanted to have a mirror just like that one?'
Bibi glowed with pride. 'Are you coming Baltasar?' she asked. 'Let's go and have our faces painted.' And with that the two children flew off.
Aunt Bumba was fidgeting.
'Oh, do sit still for a moment,' said Gran.
'I am just wondering if my daughters will be able to manage without me,' said Bumba. 'There is always so very much to do.'
'Of course they can manage' said Gran. 'Just have another slice of cake.
Look Bee, there's a group of bees doing their traditional flag-waving.'
'Oh dear, how utterly boring we always find this flag-waving,' said Bee. But still she smiled and applauded politely.
'You know what I always find a terible bore? Traditional crafts,' said Gran.
'You know those bees that insist on showing you how honey was made a hundred years ago. Especially if they wear those silly bonnets as well!'
'Well, you had better prepare yourself mother, because that is exactly what is next on the programme!'
'In that case I had better have another little drinkie,' said Gran. 'Bottoms up!'
Suddenly all went quiet.
The music stopped playing, the flag-wavers froze on the spot and everybody stopped talking. A large bee had entered the hive, followed by a group of ladies-in-waiting wearing large black capes.
'Your majesty, may I present Queen Miralda,' lady Bo said nervously.
'You are most welcome, Miralda' Bee bowed politely.
'Many happy returns, Bee. I just had to pay you a little visit, even though I hadn't been invited.'
'You did not receive an invitation?' Bee pretended to be surprised. 'Those postal bees, they are just so unreliable!'
'I would know what to do with them,' said Miralda. 'Chop off their heads!'
'Yes, I suppose you would,' said Gran.
'Of course I haven't come empty-handed. There you are.' Miralda handed a package to Bee. Bee unwrapped the box to find a beautiful paintbrush that was made from real gold. 'Thank you so much,' said Bee. 'What a lovely brush!' She felt she would be able to paint the most beautiful pictures with it.
'I know how much you love to paint,'said Miralda.' So I have yet another present for you. I happen to know Bella Picabia . And she is willing to give you lessons. Which I shall pay for, of course.'
'No!', Bee was flabbergasted. 'That would really be too much too accept!'
'But Mummy, you are always saying: if only I could paint as well as Bella,' said Bibi. She and Baltasar were standing there with their faces all painted.
'Well, it would be a wonderful opportunity,' said Bee. 'When would she be able to come here?'
Miralda smiled her waspish smile. 'It would actually be more convenient if you were to go to her studio in the Big City. That is where she keeps all her paints and canvasses, and all her brushes of course. Bella has kindly invited you to come and stay with her.'
'Now that is rather an honour,' said Gran.
'You can start on the first of September,' said Miralda. 'One month of lessons and you will be a truly great painter! Not that you aren't very good already ofcourse.'
'A whole month in the Big City?' said Bee. 'We can't afford to be away from here for such a long time.'
'Surely your mother or your cousin could fill in for you for the duration?'
'I'm terribly sorry, Bee, but I just couldn't,' said Bumba.
'And I have to return to my own hive as well,' said Gran.
'Well, what about this young lady? Surely she could replace you?'
Bibi stretched herself to her full hight. 'Oh could I Mummy, please? I am sure I could do it, I really could!'
'She is still too young,' said Bee. She let out a deep sigh. 'It would have been the most splendid gift Miralda, but unfortunately it just isn't possible.'
'Well', said Miralda. 'Then I guess you are right.'
At that moment one of the bees bent over and whispered something in her ear.
'My lady-in-waiting seems to forget sometimes that I too have my obligations,' said Miralda. 'But it would be quite wrong of me to stand in the way of your artistic development. And since there doesn't seem to be another solution I suppose I could take your place here for a while.'
Bee thought it over. She looked at the splendid gold paintbrush. With that brush and with the lessons she would receive from Bella Picabia she couldn't fail to become world famous.
'But what about me?' Baltasar tugged at Bee's hand, making the golden brush drop to
'Now look what you've done!' Bee snarled. 'Pick it up this instant!'
Baltasar picked the brush off the floor and handed it to Bee. His lower lip was trembling.
'Don't you worry, my sweet little thing,' said Miralda. She pinched Baltasar's cheeck. 'You shall have all the honey you can eat!' Baltasar was all smiles again.
'And you shall help me govern the country, my girl,' said Miralda. Bibi was beaming.
Gran and Bumba were watching Bee. And Bee was having a daydream.
She could picture herself already, returning from the Big City with a stack of beautiful paintings. She saw herself landing on the gangplank outside the beehive, tired from the long flight. But as she attempted to enter the hive the guards stopped her.
'Who are you?'
'Don't you recognize me?' said Bee. 'We are Bee, your queen.'
The guards pressed their noses in her coat. 'You smell of paint. Queen Miralda! There is an individual here who says she is our queen!'
Miralda came strolling from inside the hive. 'Well, anybody could say that, couldn't they,'she said with a grin on her face. 'But you are just an artist. Surely you can see who is the queen around here?'
'You are wearing our crown!' cried Bee.
'Now get lost!' said Miralda. 'Because if you don't: Off with your head!'
And Bee flew off, all on her own. And all she had left in the world were some paintings...
'So, that's settled then, my dear Bee?' Miralda said in a voice that was oozing with sweetness. Bee came back to the real world again. How would she ever be able to trust Miralda? That miserable insect was already trying to seduce her children away from her.
'No Miralda,' said Bee. 'We could not bear to be away from our children for such a long time. And besides, our people would miss us too much.'
'And that's the truth!' said Bumba.
'Very properly observed, my daughter,' said Gran. And then she winked at Bee.
'Won't you sit down, Miralda,' said Bee. 'Would you like a small glass of honey?'
'No!' said Miranda. She looked at Bee with a look of pure hatred in her eyes. 'I have to be getting home again. And besides: I heard your honey tastes like pee!'
'I suppose Midas told you,' said Bee. 'Have a safe journey home, Miralda!'
Spitting and cursing Miralda flew off, followed by her ladies in their long flapping capes.
'Well, I for one am glad she has buzzed off!' said Gran.
That evening everyone came out to watch the firefly-ballet.
'Aaahh!...' all the bees hummed.
'Mummy,' Bibi whispered, 'will you promise never to leave us in order to become a famous painter?'
She felt a warm royal wing wrapping snugly all around her.
'The very thought of it!' said Bee.
Mother and Erica sat together at the table, each with a big pile of butter-beans on a newspaper in front of them. Between them was a pan of water, into which they threw the shelled beans.
'You're very quiet,' Mother said. 'Is something wrong?'
Erica shook her head.
'I have the feeling you're hiding something from me.'
'Splash!' went the beans.
'Anything happened at school?'
'In the street then?'
'No.' Erica raised her head. Through the glass sliding doors she could see the blue vase standing on the mantelpiece. Mother looked from Erica to the vase and from the vase to Erica. She pointed at her daughter with the knife she was holding.
'What have you been up to?'
She'll murder me, Erica thought.
'Have you been at that vase?'
'I didn't see anything! Really I didn't!'
'Look at me!'Mother's eyes were black as ice. 'Don't lie to me!'
'I couldn't read the letters anyway!'
Mother threw the knife on the table. 'Now we're getting there! Deceitful child!'
'It was you that hid those photo's, not me!'
'Shut your mouth!'
'Who is that man?' Erica didn't know where she got the courage from.
'Nothing to do with you!'
'I'll ask Aunty!'
'She won't tell you!'Mother laughed scornfully.
'You'll never tell me anything!' Erica retorted. 'But I know anayway, I do!'
Mother wasn't laughing now. 'What do you know, then?'
'That that Hun is my father!'
Erica expected her mother to fly into a rage, get up and belt her one. She put her arm over her face to shield it. But there was only silence.
When she finally dared to look up, her mother was still sitting there at the table, her face buried in her hands.
'Mother? I'm sorry,' Erica whispered.
Her mother didn't answer.
'I don't know what made me say it. Shall I go to my room?'
'Wait,' said Mother. She didn't sound angry any more.
Erica knew what she was going to say. She wanted to run and hide in her room, where she couldn't hear those words.
'That German is your father.'
Erica looked into the back garden. A grey tabby cat was walking along the fence. If it fell off, it was true.
The cat got to the other side safely, and it was still true.
'I was going to tell you when you were older,' her mother said. 'You'd understand it better then.'
'You lied to me,'Erica said in a strange voice. 'You told me his name was Johan. That he died before I was born.'
'Ernst is dead, Erica. He was killed in the war.'
'It's not true!'
'Don't shout like that, remember the neighbours. Don't ever tell anyone your father was a German. People hate the Huns.'
'Does Granny Vink knows?'
'The whole street knows. That's why they treat us like dirt. Just ignore it.'
Mother went on shelling beans. Her lips were pressed tightly together. Not another word about that shameful father would they let pass.
Far away in the neighbours' back garden Erica could hear children shouting and laughing.