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Dutch books to keep up your Dutch this summer (beginners)

Summer is here! No matter what your plans are this summer, reading will always take you places. Especially if you are learning a language. Here are some of our best Dutch book tips for beginners. The four books below are children’s books, but they’re fun, exciting, playful and full of new words and idioms.


1 Ziezo (Annie M.G. Schmidt)

Yes, here we are again: recommending Annie M.G. Schmidt to our students. In fact, we believe this is the first book any new learner of Dutch should purchase! It is a true treasure trove, containing 347 children’s rhymes and hundreds of marvellous illustrations.

The title ‘Ziezo’ means, ‘There you are’, and even after only a few Dutch lessons, you’ll be able to find words and phrases that you’ll recognise. Try to understand more words by looking them up in a dictionary. Read the poem aloud to yourself and enjoy the sounds. Google the title of the poem and you’re likely to find a video on Youtube. Listen and sing along. Involve your kids, if you have them!

A popular song cycle in “Ziezo” (p. 229-235) is “Het beertje Pippeloentje” (Little bear Pippeloen). As you know, the Dutch love diminutives, which they make by adding “je” or “tje” to the ending of a word. This has a cute and endearing effect.

Diminutives are also handy for you, as a student of Dutch, as the nouns are always ”het-words”. In the first poem “Pet” (cap), almost every word has been made into a diminutive. You’ll also see how “geen” (not a / no) and “heeft” (the third person singular of “hebben”: has) are used. Here are a few lines from the first stanza:

Kijk, het beertje Pippeloentje / heeft geen sok en heeft geen schoentje / heeft geen dasje en geen boordje / en geen tasje met een koordje…. / geen ponnetje voor in bed / maar / Pippeloentje heeft een pet!

[See, little bear Pippeloen / has no sock and has no shoe / has no scarf and no collar / and no bag with a cord… / no nightie for in bed / but / Pippeloen has a cap!]

‘Dikkertje Dap”for Dutch learners at level A1+

In “Ziezo”, on page 28, you’ll find the Dutch song of songs, an icon of Dutch culture. Everybody knows it by heart. Bring up the title “Dikkertje Dap” in passing and your average Dutchie (male or female of any age) will spontaneously start singing or reciting the verse.

It is a poem about the daring little boy called “Dikkertje Dap” and his amazing adventure with a kind giraffe in Artis Zoo. The name “Dikkertje” suggests that he is far from skinny (“dik” means “thick” or “stout”) and “Dap” is the first syllable of “dapper” (meaning courageous or brave). In other words, it’s about a child whom the Dutch consider to be “the real deal”.

This poem can help you to practice the present tense, the past tense and the imperative mood. You’ll also learn how to tell the time and how to do your ABCs, as well as all kinds of handy phrases for daily use.

> Find a copy of ‘Ziezo’ on google shopping.
> Read more about the amazing Annie M.G. Schmidt in this article.

2 Woeste Willem (by Ingrid and Dieter Schubert, Lemniscaat, Rotterdam)

You can buy this great book for only 2,50 euro in every bookshop. This funny book is about a pirate called ‘fierce Willem”. The delightful illustrations are a story in themselves and after you have finished reading it, you can read it to your neighbour’s kids or give it to them.

Willem is een humeurige en mopperende zeerover,
maar met het jongetje Frank sluit hij vriendschap

en aan hem vertelt hij al zijn avonturen.

Willem is a moody and grumbling pirate,
but he makes friends with the boy Frank
and he tells him all his adventures.

3 Boer Boris heeft het heet! (Ted van Lieshout & Philip Hopman 2020)

You must have noticed how hot Dutch summers (and springs) are these days. So it’s time to read. Boer Boris heeft het heet! (Farmer Boris is hot!)

The text is by one of our favourite poets and authors Ted van Lieshout and the detailed illustrations were made by the artist Philip Hopman. We’ve lost count how many picture books have been published in The Boer Boris series since 2012, but it must be more than thirteen books. These books have won several prices and are excellent reading material when you have young children.

Who is Boer Boris? Well, contrary to what you may think, Boris is not a grown-up farmer but a “kleuter” (a toddler) who has his own farm. He drives around on a red tractor and is helped by his brother and his sister. Together they experience adventures around the farm, but sometimes they go on a trip. The rhyming verses are very funny and there is a lot that you discover in the pictures. In many books there are a blackbird [merel] and a mouse [muis] in the drawings.

Here is a short quote from the beginning of the book:

Het erf is leeg, de wei is leeg en leeg is ook de akker.

Zou iedereen nog slapen? Nee, Knol het paard is wakker.

Hij heeft het heet, de stakker.

Gelukkig staat hij in de stal, niet in de volle zon.

Want anders smólt hij! (Als een paard van warmte smelten kon.)

[The yard is empty, the meadow is empty, and empty is the field.

Is everyone still asleep? No, Nag the horse is awake.

He is hot, the wretch.

Fortunately, he is in the stable, not in the full sun.

Because otherwise he would melt! (If a horse could melt with heat.)]

> You can buy the Boer Boris books in bookstores, but they are also available as e-books and, of course, you can borrow them from any library.

4 Alfabet (Charlotte Dematons)

The title of the book is Alfabet and except for the title it has no words… The author and illustrator is Charlotte Dematons, well know for wonderful books like De gele ballon (the yellow balloon), Sinterklaas (Sint Nicolaas) and Nederland (Netherlands).

No words, so how can you learn new vocabulary?

I’ll explain. The book hides over 3000 words. It’s your task to find them. Alfabet consists of 26 paintings. One for each letter of the alphabet. So the first illustration is dedicated to the letter A. Each object in the picture is a word that starts with the letter A. So on the large mountain (Ararat) you’ll find Noah’s Ark. You’ll see an ‘aap’, an ‘alligator’, an ‘astronaut’, an ‘ambulance’, an ‘aardappel’ and so on. The name of each object must have an ‘A’.

And when you turn the page, you’ll see that all these objects have names beginning with a ‘b’: ‘beer’, ‘bongo’, ‘broccoli’, ‘boog’ (bow), ‘boemerang’, etc. And so on and so forth, letter after letter until you reach ‘Z’.

It’s fun to do this research by yourself, but is even ‘gezelliger’ if you do it with your partner or with a child or several children. Write these words down, and don’t forget to check in a dictionary if the word is ‘de’ or ‘het’. Before you know it, you’ll have picked up loads of words and you have made your word treasury (woordenschat) richer.

If you want some help, there is an internet site attached to the book, but I know you…. You’ll want to explore these wonderful paintings yourself.

> Find Alfabet on google shopping


Published Juli 2021