SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge: Torenhoog en mijlen breed

A guest post for the SpReAd the Love Book Challenge by Ancient Armitage reader Emma:

What a lovely idea to share a favorite book and to donate one.

My favorite children’s book is one written by Tonke Dragt, a Dutch author. It is called ‘Torenhoog en mijlen breed’. Translated into English the title would be ‘Wide as England, tall as a spire’. This is a sentence from the poem Travel by R.L. Stevenson on which Tonke Dragt also based the motto of the book: Waar wouden zijn, als vuur zo heet, torenhoog en mijlen breed (Where are forests, hot as fire, wide as England, tall as a spire).

foto torenhoog en mijlenbreed

I have collected all her books and have read them often. Most of them are a bit worn from reading. I even wrote to her long ago and she sent a very lovely letter in reply.

One of her books ‘Een brief voor de koning’, has been translated into English, ‘A letter for the King’, a story about a boy who is to be knighted. The night before the ceremony he is asked for help by a stranger and this leads him into an adventurous journey.

Tonke Dragt’s work has often been described as fantasy. In a way it is, but her stories are set in times and worlds that are real (or could be). Her love of legends and myths shows in her work. One recurring theme in her books is the quest of the main character to find out who he or she is.  And often the characters act in a way they are not supposed to or allowed to but somehow these actions are necessary in order for them to grow and develop as people. What makes her work extra special is the fact that she makes her own illustrations and collages which add an extra layer to the stories.

‘Torenhoog en mijlenbreed’ was written in 1969. In a nutshell, it is the story of Edu, an astronaut who is sent to Venus, Afroi in the book. On Venus, the people from Earth live under a dome and they don’t enter the forest that surrounds that dome. Edu however is attracted to the forest and during one of his missions he lands there. He meets a creature from Venus, they call themselves Afroini. The Afroini are intelligent beings who can read minds.  Edu finds out that he is telepathic himself. This complicates his relationships with his girlfriend Petra and his colleagues. Eventually he has to return to Earth, but promises the Afroini he will come back to learn to control and deal with his mind reading abilities.

I read the book for the first time when I was 13 years old and have read it several times since then. The last time was many years ago and I was curious to see what my reaction would be reading it again for this SpReAd the Love challenge.  I’m glad time hasn’t changed my view of the book. It’s still a wonderful story about finding out who you are, a story I hope many children will read. It is still available in our local library, so I’m not donating them a copy. I will give one to my niece. She told me she has never read a book by Tonke Dragt so I think it’s time they met.


Many thanks to Emma for sharing a childhood favorite!  (If you’d like to join in, I’m very happy to host.)

3 comments on “SpReAd the Love Children’s Book Challenge: Torenhoog en mijlen breed

  1. […] about some Dr. Seussy books; and jholland writes about a day when the crayons went on strike and Emma guests at Obscura’s blog, writing about one of her favorite children’s books &#8212…” I loved all of these — and I especially like to hear about favorite children’s […]

  2. Servetus says:

    I had never heard of this author — what an interesting post. I also love that she wrote back to you. Do you think that Edu ever went back?

  3. suzy says:

    I read “A letter for the King” with my kids and I like the book very much! It´s a book for older kids and it is very exciting (for the kids) 😉

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