Unexpected surprises (Or: Dutch kids’ books)

A few pages into the aforementioned Dutch children’s book, I was reading along and found something slightly unexpected, at least for a kid’s book. Look at the first paragraph. Two bullies (having been thwarted by the victim’s older brother) jump on their bikes and bike away. Once they get a safe distance away, they turn around and give their retort.

Basically their response is Vuile hufter! (dirty bastard!). And then it says terwijl ze hun middelvinger opsteken. … (while they raised their middle fingers.) They then go on to talk about the kid’s dirty filthy clothes.

A bit unexpected for a book written for 10 year olds (or so). Though I realized a while ago that Americans tend to be a bit more… reserved in some instances. It was interesting to work at the public library shortly after And Tango Makes Three was published. This book is about two male penguins who seemed to have a relationship, and exhibited nesting tendencies. Eventually they were given an egg to “mother” and they did a great job of it. (Of course, penguins tend to have different sexual habits, and eventually they “broke up” when one of them doted on a female penguin.)

Someone in town complained about the book being in the picture book section, so all copies were moved to the parenting section. Though I can understand this – parents like to let the children roam and pick out what they want to read. Unknowingly bringing that book home could lead to some awkward discussions before the parent wants to bring them up.

But in the Dutch book – it’s not the only example of “real world” actions of kids that age. On page 1 the older sister was admonishing her brother to keep up when he whined he couldn’t get up the hill*: “niet lullen maar fietsen!’ which is basically “less bs’ing, more biking!”.

* = must have been man-made, since I haven’t seen any hills yet!

But hey, at least it makes the book more interesting to read. I am just used to children’s books being slightly more censored. I was reading a lot of them between 2006-2007 for the library job so I don’t think I am THAT out of touch.

Categories: Culture, Learning Dutch, Reading | Tags: | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Unexpected surprises (Or: Dutch kids’ books)

  1. I wish I had thought of children’s book when I was in Holland. I would have learned more words, and then I would have received more licorice from the ladies at the dry cleaners. Oh well. Virginia

    • One of my more random fun memories is Marco taking me to the Hague public library. We just sat in the kid’s section and read picture books. We’ll ignore the fact that a 3 or 4 year old was doing much better than me with the pronunciation…

      Of course, this practice stopped when they called a security guard (no joke) to kick us out, since the tables were for kids only. There were only 1-2 kids in the section at the time, but rules are rules I suppose.

      But still, everything up to that moment was great.

  2. Marco

    I don’t think they actually called a security guard though. The guy was just making his round and was probably bored enough to ask us to leave 🙂

    Oh, and as we found out on page 1 if I remember, the book takes place in the province “Limburg” where they actually have a real mountain and several hills.
    It’s not even man made! I swear! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. Margriet Brouwer

    Actually I am a bit surprised that they use this kind of language in a childrens book. Some people think that this should be o.k., but I know a lot of people do not like this. Are you sure this was for 10 years old children?

    • It definitely looks like a children’s book. It’s not even 100 pages long, I believe, and it has lots of pencil-drawn pictures. The title page says “AVI-Niveau 8” for the old reading level and it was published in 2000.

      Another kind commenter said that the old reading level (AVI-Niveau 8) translates to groep 6 these days. I read on the Dutch education page that groep 1 is basically preschool, so age 4. So that makes groep 6 about grade 5 in American terms I think – which for us is about 10 years old.

      I could be wrong of course. But you should have seen Marco do a doubletake over videochat when I said the sentence on page 1 (mentioned above where the sister admonishes the brother to talk less and bike more…) since he was shocked it was in the book.

      Edited to add: Most of me is glad that this is not that ‘normal’ for the Dutch children. It’s strange to read this stuff.

      • Well, that “niet lullen maar fietsen!’ which is basically “less bs’ing, more biking!” sentence is how I learned to bike through all kinds of horrible Dutch weather. But to me the sentence was a little bit different. My mother and the neighbours told me and the other kids from the neighbourhood “Niet zeuren, doorfietsen.” if we were cycling to school or home. so well xD

  4. D.

    a well, it is kind of normal for dutch books and tv to use such language, even for children it is normal to hear them/read them. But well at that age I was used to that words and it was well just reading your average grade book. But it is good to see that you are having fun with learning dutch 😉

    • Yep, it’s an interesting book. And one of the vocabulary words that I looked up was also in a Facebook status I came across today. So the book is already helping!

      Incidentally, that was also the first Facebook status that I was able to translate completely on my own. Ha.

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