“My dad would love this!”

screen-shot-2016-09-04-at-20-58-19Craft fairs are fun to do because you risk meeting your market. A few years ago in Amsterdam, I was flogging my Betty & Cat books with moderate success at a Christmas fair, when a young English woman stopped at the stand and got all excited. Her father, her children’s grandfather, was having trouble bonding with his grandkids. They spoke Dutch among themselves, and of course, he didn’t.

This woman bought all three books as a Christmas present saying, “My dad’s going to love this!”

You can see how this would play out: Granddad on the couch with a grandchild and a Betty & Cat book. He doesn’t understand the word thuis and has it explained to him; the child doesn’t understand the word hedge and has it explained to her by her grandfather.

The primary objective when I wrote these books was to raise the confidence levels of all concerned. I wanted children reading the books to feel a sense of accomplishment – as well as finding their bilingual experience reflected in a “real” book. I wanted parents reading the books to their kids to feel confident about a target language they maybe weren’t that sure of. And I wanted to give grandparents the experience of participating in the bilingual life of a grandchild.

When I was a Dutch kid growing up in Montreal, language was a game for us. When I was 7 or 8, I remember we made a tape to send “back home”. My dad made me recite Humpty Dumpty into the tape recorder (God knows what they made of this in Holland, but I was game). The sense of pride and accomplishment was enormous. And a love of language – any language – turned into a lifelong adventure. Win-win.


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