When my older son was a baby we were still in Australia. Western Australian public libraries (in those days anyway) used to periodically have huge sales of books that were no longer needed. The books would be randomly bundled up into fives or tens and sold for a few cents a bundle. I remember buying a load of rubbish to get hold of a large hardback book by Francis Schaeffer! We loved those sales and one of the delightful books we found there is now the centre piece of an intriguing little project that covers English, handwriting, history, art, music and geography – all in rhyme!
F. N.Monjo's The Sea Beggar's Son is a delightful book and I was thrilled when in 2007 Random House who own the rights, kindly gave permission to include this out of print book on the Mothers' Companion. The project is on Volume (CD) 5 of the Mothers' Companion and is suitable for children around seven years old although older children or a group of mixed ages could use it without much adaption. The book tells the story of the Dutch Admiral, Piet(er) Pietersen Heyn, who captured a Spanish ship full of silver during the Netherlands' struggle for independence from Spain. Monjo takes the story right back into Piet's childhood and relates the reasons for the eighty years war (1568–1648) in simple but accurate terms – and appealing verse. The book is exceptional for the quality of its illustrations, most in full colour, that add their own commentary to the story.
The worksheets that go with the book go through the story in small steps giving background information and providing writing practice. The history of the Netherlands touches upon the history of Britain in this period in some interesting ways which the worksheets will help you explore. There is also plenty of scope for thinking about the issues involved in the book – especially that of freedom – which will enable you to have some valuable talks with your child as you work your way through the story.
It was only years after we'd done the project that I realised that Piet Heyn is the subject also of a very popular Dutch children's song. If you want to add some singing to the fun you can find it here – but you will have to sing it in Dutch!
Children who play the recorder (and those who don't too) will be charmed by hearing the delightful Dutch recorder music that comes into the project. ...And don't forget to look out for some merry making peasants that have sneaked into the story from a Brueghel painting on page 16 of the story!