Journey from Peppermint Street Critical Context - Essay

Meindert De Jong

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Journey from Peppermint Street earned for Meindert De Jong the National Book Award for Children’s Literature and is the last story that featured the Frisian setting of his childhood. At a time when books for younger readers increasingly reflected the harsher realities of a troubled world, this novel exuded the enduring virtues of a stable community full of trustworthy adults and traditional values, and it found a receptive and appreciative audience. Many readers had loved other De Jong books, including those that also had the author’s birthplace of Weirom (Wierum) as their setting, such as The Wheel on the School (1954). That Newbery Medal-winning book begins with a child whose quest for bringing back the storks to town eventually energizes the whole community. Far out the Long Canal (1964), like Journey from Peppermint Street, deals tenderly with a young boy’s yearnings for experience and connectedness. All these stories and De Jong’s others impress with their strong sense of place, rooted as they are in the author’s vivid childhood memories of dikes, floods, ice, and people. The particularity of a place and a culture, however, invariably accrues the universal, as it does in the books of De Jong and of Katherine Paterson, through the moving, insightful depiction of children who need the healing wholeness of confidence, courage, and love. Many of Meindert De Jong’s books are still in print and continue to be read by young readers and their parents. Ironically, Journey from Peppermint Street is not.