Thursday, December 25, 2014

RONDO | Where UPS, FedEx, USPS Dare Not, He Goes!!

Rondo, ready to make the trip, waiting to be loaded
 up with his kit and the bag of presents.
You have heard that this year deliveries of Santa's goods were running behind.

The elves did their job.

Santa did his job.

But the last bit has depended upon UPS, FedEx and USPS.

Deep in the frozen forest, made treacherous by the snow and ice in the trees, a little girl named Ellen was unreachable.

Rudolph and the other reindeer bowed out. There was no chimney, not even a proper roof, because Ellen lived with her family in a hut amidst the trees.

Santa was distressed. Ellen had been very good and Santa Claus was eager to get her presents to her. She was down to get two books by Hilda van Stockum from Boissevain Books. How was he going to do this?

Finally, Santa had an idea. Would Rondo be willing to try to get through to her? Rondo had done this before.

Since he had received treats the last time, Rondo was agreeable to try again. Santa made sure that Rondo was signed up for health insurance and outfitted Rondo appropriately. Rudolf took Rondo as far as he could go. Rondo jumped off Rudolph's back and promised to get back as fast as he could.

He followed the map that Santa gave him until he could smell the cider cooking. Soon he was at the door. Ellen was so happy to get the presents! Rondo was given a bowl of cider, some extra treats and a lot of attention. Then he headed back to Rudolph.

When they got back, Santa beamed. Rondo got an extra treat every one of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Rondo was a hero, and someone suggested him for the next Hero Dog book. But as usual Rondo deflected all the attention to the elves and Rudolph. He said:
Thanks, but all this fuss over me is wrong. I was just doing my "Australian duty". The elves work all year getting the toys ready. They should get the recognition. And really, Rudolph did most of the distance. I just took care of the last little bit, and I consider it an honor. Thank you so much. Merry Christmas!
Spoken like a true Hero Dog.

P.S. This is not Rondo's first act of heroism. Here is another one:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

KERSTI | Praised in DUTCH Magazine, Nov-Dec 2014

A wonderful review of Kersti and Saint Nicholas was published in the November/December 2014 issue of DUTCH, the magazine in their section on Children’s Books for the Dutch Holiday Season.  

The reviewer describes the book as “engagingly written and vibrantly illustrated,” and “truly a book for all ages.” 

Noting that  Kersti is “peppered with tidbits on Dutch culture”, the review “highly recommends the book for anyone interested in The Netherlands.” 

For more information about Kersti and Saint Nicholas, visit the Children and Teens section of the Boissevain Books Facebook site or Amazon.

KERSTI | Celebrating December 6, 2014

van Stockum.

The best selling of the Boissevain Books titles so far is Kersti and St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas' holiday is coming up on December 6. He is the patron saint of millers, sailors, Holland and New York City. My mother Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006) loved St. Nicholas, as is clear from Kersti. St. Nicholas appears each year on the evening of December 5, the day before his feast day.

(It used to be, in some German cities, that the downside of the arrival of St. Nicholas would be the arrival of Krampus, an ugly creature that would by contrast make St. Nicholas all the more benevolent. This tradition is being revived in Munich and elsewhere.)

This is a "Speculaas Moulin", Dutch windmill 
cookie for St. Nicholas Day.
Around St. Nicholas Day, in Holland and Belgium they bake a lot of Speculaas (Speculoos in Belgium) cookies, a virtual sample of which is at right. The tangible version includes almond and ginger spices.

The cookie has a windmill on it because it's a specialty of Holland and other low countries threatened by floods. Windmills - besides grinding corn and wheat, and generating electricity - pump the water out of polders, the areas inside the dikes that defend against water. We had reason to remember all this in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy in 2012 shut down much of New York City. If NYC had more of the Dutch skill at keeping water out of areas below sea level, and more of the famed foresight of its Dutch founders, Hurricane Sandy might not have done such damage to the areas of NYC near water.

The Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam was founded in Manhattan largely to support trapping beavers and sending them to Europe for women to wear. The New York City coat of arms has two beavers on it as well as a four windmill wings in honor of the Dutch settlers.

First published in 1962, The Winged Watchman
has sold 50,000 copies in reprint since 1997 and 
is currently optioned for a television miniseries.
The Port of Rotterdam is a great example of Dutch engineering to keep water at bay. It is also where my mother, Hilda van Stockum (1908-2006), was born because her father was a naval captain and stayed near ports and naval bases. Hitler bombed Rotterdam in 1940 as a warning to the Dutch to let his troops march in and occupy the country.

Seal of the City of New York. Note 
mill wings and two beavers.
Her book, The Winged Watchman (1962), republished in 1997 after 20 years being out of print, is about the Dutch Occupation. It has sold nearly 50,000 copies in the reprint version and is currently optioned for a television miniseries. The book's themes echo in light of Hurricane Sandy, which caused most damage from flooding and lost most of  economic activity because of the electricity outages The story is about a family that lives in a windmill during the Nazi Occupation. Two boys aged 10 and 14 join the Resistance. The book shows how the windmill did their work when the electric mills were starved for fuel during the Dutch famine.

The Dutch have been facing floods for many centuries. Their world preeminence in building windmills to pump out water also made them experts in making sails for the mill wings and this helped make them a global naval power for a time. After the English took over the Dutch colony in 1664, they renamed it New York. The city grew most rapidly when the Hudson River became the gateway not only to upstate New York but also, after the Erie Canal was built, to the Great Lakes.

The Zwarte Piet Debate in Holland

Will the Netherlands give up "Black Peters"? Or will Pieterbaas 
just lose the blackface?
The "Black Peter" controversy was told in a New York Times story last year by John Tagliabue, reporting from Amsterdam.

In Holland, someone dressed in a St. Nicholas bishop's attire arrives in each town by tradition in November. Then at festivities on December 5, St. Nicholas Day Eve, St. Nicholas appears at each house.

Children go to sleep wondering whether in their shoes and stockings, left by the fireplace, there will be candies and toys. If they have been bad, they get a switch or a lump of coal.

Controversy has erupted over the person accompanying the saint, Zwarte Piet - "Black Peter" or a multiple of "Black Petes". They are dressed in the costumes of the Moors, who are Spanish Muslims descended from the ones who invaded and overran Spain in 711 A.D. The Black Petes are in blackface and feathered floppy hats, often with oversized earrings. They do stunts. They are comic figures. They are ordinarily played by athletic white Dutchmen. They are a kind of mascot for the saint and do practical things like take care of the presents.

Having played Santa Claus a few times, I like the idea of having a helper. But the tradition in Holland is now being challenged. Minorities and progressive reformers in the Netherlands are protesting the inferior status of Black Pete.
  • One-third of Dutch respondents to a poll say that the tradition is a problem.
  • Yet at the same time two million Dutch computer users signed onto a Facebook page defending the Black Pete tradition.  What do we make of this?

Kersti and St. Nicholas 
with snowflakes.
Changing a tradition is difficult, but it may be necessary to keep up with social changes. In this case, the problem could be taken care of with two changes:

1. Drop the "black" part of Black Peter and use the other name for him, Pieterbaas (Peter Boss), instead.

2. Stop the blackface. A Moor can be all shades of skin color and doesn't have to have blackface.

Will it happen? Will it suffice?

 St. Nicholas was a central figure in our family's childhood, thanks to the fact that it was a central figure in the childhood of my mother Hilda van Stockum.

When we her children were growing up, and even long into our adulthood, she delighted in dressing up as St. Nicholas. She always made it clear that St. Nicholas's gifts were rewards for good behavior, and that there were less inviting presentations for naughty children, notably a lump of coal in the shoe on the morning of December 6.

The threatening side of St. Nicholas's visit was removed in the American version of the saint. Sinterklaas in Dutch became Santa Claus in two phases. First, the jolly saint appeared when "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (beginning "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"), first published in 1823 in Troy, NY; this poem portrayed the saint as a jolly old elf bringing gifts with the help of twelve reindeer. Clement Clark Moore claimed authorship and as in previous years the poem will be read out on December 15 at 6 pm at St. Peter's Church in Chelsea where Moore lived. Thomas Nast finished the picture with a jolly Santa Claus popularized by Coca Cola.

Hilda van Stockum wrote Kersti and St. Nicholas in the late 1930s, during the time she was converting to Catholicism, changing her citizenship from Dutch to American (1936), and having children (1934, 1936, 1938). By the time Kersti appeared in 1940, she had four children, Hitler had bombed her native Rotterdam flat, and Hitler's troops and SS police had occupied her country.

Mother's natural instincts were to support the dual role of St. Nicholas as a dispenser of both rewards and punishments. Light is defined by darkness, good by evil, and vice versa.

But with clouds darkening over Holland, and HvS's new conversion to a religion built around unending forgiveness, Kersti becomes a proto-American - a Dutch girl who wants presents for the naughty children as well as the good ones, on the principle that getting a present might be just the encouragement that a naughty child might need to become good. Kersti wants a Santa Claus and so, I think, does every parent. When children are small, it's hard to leave them a piece of coal.

When Kersti came out, the book was widely praised for its illustrations, although they were drawn for a book's spine to be the short end of a rectangle (like A Day on Skates) and they were printed one-fourth the size when the book was published with the spine on the long side. The war in Europe may have created shortages for publishers and restricted their options.

The reviews were enthusiastic about the art, but children's librarians - who were big and loyal fans of HvS - were upset by Kersti's challenge to conventional views about right and wrong. In the original version of the book, good children didn't get presents because St. Nicholas ran out of them. The librarians agreed with Pieterbaas, the voice of convention, who objects to St. Nicholas's listening to Kersti's advocacy of naughty children.

In the second edition of the book, on sale since 2010, the ending was changed by the author's six children, who are all blessedly still living (Olga has just turned 80). Elisabeth did the primary rewrite. St. Nicholas now tells his servant to bring out presents from the "reserves", so everyone gets their presents. The second edition also removes a picture of Pieterbaas looking devastated as he puzzles over St. Nicholas's instructions. It also changes the language to remove the dialect that was given to Pieterbaas. The second edition has been selling well - thank you for buying it. We only get the sales figures from Amazon, not the names of the buyers, so we don't know who you are or we would thank you by name.

But maybe we now need a third edition depending on which way the wind blows in Holland. Will St. Nicholas carry his own bags? Will Pieterbaas be used more commonly than "Black Peter" and will he lose his color? Traditions can be changed, but they need something to change to. We are paying attention. Send me an email if you have a point of view - john (at)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kersti and St. Nicholas - Our Bestselling Book (Superseded)

Kersti and St. Nicholas.

This post has been incorporated into this one.

The post is being left up so that links are not destroyed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TIME BOMBER | Review by Richard Peacocke

Dr. Robert Wack with
his book, Time Bomber
Richard Peacocke of Ottawa, Canada had some nice words to say about Robert Wack's Time Bomber (Boissevain Books, 2014).

He posted a 5-star rating on the Amazon listing of the book and had the following to say about the book, which he writes that he tried to post but may not have succeeded:
Gripping narrative of warfare and moral choice, underpinned by a far-reaching mathematical theory about space and time. 
Highlights for me are the authentic scenes in the RAF squadron and gripping episodes in the fields of Normandy. The book weaves together the history of several places and time periods, with inspiration drawn from the real-life Dr. Willem van Stockum. 
There is a great deal of action, but while there is bravery and cowardice, there is little or no glory. The character studies and human experience in wartime ring true. 
All the way through the reader has an uneasy feeling that something unknown and mysterious is occurring. This is based on a soaring mathematical theory, the intricacy of which is touched on, but not laboured over. The theory is based on Dr. van Stockum’s work and allows the protagonist to bridge fiction and reality. I couldn’t put the book down.
Thank you, Dick Peacocke, for sending this along.

Monday, September 15, 2014

TO AFRICA WITH A DREAM | Olga Marlin Is 80

Olga Marlin's memoir, 2011 edition.
Nov 12, 2014—Olga E. Marlin, M.A., D. Litt. is 80 years old today.

Her autobiographical book, To Africa with a Dream," was first published in 2002 by Sceptre Publishers in New York.

A second edition, with six pages of photographs and a new Prefac,e was published by Boissevain Books in 2011 and is sold on Amazon.

Her brother John says: "I was proud to be by my sister's side on June 24 of that year as she waited to receive her Doctor of Letters — D. Litt., honoris cause — degree from Strathmore University in Nairobi."

The year 2011 was the 50th year of Strathmore's life, first as a college and then as a university. Olga Marlin has been a Kenya resident for more than 50 years and became a citizen of Kenya in 1969, six years after independence.

Kenya Television Network (KTN) interviewed Olga on her 50 years of work in Kenya. The interview aired as part of KTN's weekend news show, right before "House" and "Law and Order" and "Mad Men".

Prof. John Odhiambo, Vice-Chancellor of Strathmore
University and Olga E. Marlin, D.Litt., in 2011. (JT Marlin)
Here is what Strathmore University posted to announce the impending award of the honorary degree:
The University will during its 2011 graduation ceremony on Friday, 24th June award an honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt. Honoris Causa) to Miss Olga Emily Marlin, the first Principal of Kianda College; a member of the University Council, and the author of the autobiography "To Africa With a Dream". The title of the book now in its second edition captures the inspiring vision behind Miss Marlin's outstanding contributions to the multi-dimensional development of women since her arrival in Kenya 50 years ago. She arrived with a group of ladies with the aim of starting a school, one open to women of all races and beliefs. It was a challenging adventure.

Very few African women had access to a formal education. Women rarely went beyond primary school as they were married at a very early age. They owned very little or nothing, had no voice in decision making and were mainly confined to the homestead, the "shamba", and the raising of children. Miss Marlin's dream and commitment was to change this situation of women in the home, workplace and society. 
Olga's Remarks at 2011 Ceremony. (Photo by JT Marlin) 
Academic Background

The eldest of six children [all of whom are living, in four countries], Miss Marlin was born in New York, N.Y. USA on 12th November 1934. Her primary schooling was at the Blessed Sacrament School, Chevy Chase, Maryland while her secondary schooling was successfully completed at St. Paul's Academy, Montreal, Canada. In 1956 she graduated with an M.A. in Modern Languages from Trinity College, Dublin and obtained her Higher Diploma in Education from University College, Dublin in 1957.

Fully equipped with academic content and educational skills, she arrived in Kenya in 1960 as a young competent graduate - enthusiastic, spiritually and humanly committed to her dream. Her main area of specialisation was Education with a flair for languages. Miss Marlin is able to speak English, French and Spanish fluently with a basic knowledge of Kiswahili.
Contributions to the Multi-Dimensional Development of Women
The education of women is one of the most important aspects of the growth and development of a nation. Together with other enterprising women, Miss Marlin began the challenging task of the multi-dimensional development of women through carefully selected academic course units and practical training in a variety of learning institutions, initially in the Nairobi area and with time in the tea growing region of Limuru, the Coast Province of Kenya and later in Nigeria.

Leadership for such initiatives were taken and monitored by Miss Marlin through Kianda Foundation, of which she is the Chairperson and Founding Trustee since January 1961. Some of the significant and successful institutions where Miss Marlin played a pioneering role leading to the betterment of the status of women will now be highlighted.

Miss Marlin started her teaching career in two well established British schools: Kenya High School and then Delamere Girls (now known as State House Girls High School) where she served, in each, for a term. In this scenario the two schools had little to offer the indigenous woman as the opportunities were limited or non-existent. However, this experience did not deter Miss Marlin's vision for change. She managed to make friends with the staff and students who enjoyed her French and English classes. She then moved to the Royal Technical College (now University of Nairobi Main Campus) as a lecturer in English Literature for a brief period.
As Kenya's independence approached many British women left Kenya creating opportunities for well paid positions in the public and private sectors of development.

Kianda Secretarial College was opened in 1961 with Miss Marlin as Principal. Many African girls could now pursue a secretarial career while interacting for the first time with girls from other races on an equal footing. Their training helped the girls to become financially independent and provided the necessary means to help their families and communities.
Olga Marlin, D.Litt., with well-wishers in 2011.  
This initiative was supported by well-known Kenyan women such as Mrs. Jemina Gecaga, Kenya's first degree holder and member of Legco; Miss Margaret Kenyatta, the first lady Mayor of Nairobi and Ms. Maria T. Temes, a keen historian and an able administrator. The integral training provided at the College helped to break the racial barrier and enriched the personalities of all. Eventually, Kianda Secretarial College became a part of Strathmore University.
In 1971 and 1972, Miss Marlin was instrumental in setting up a similar college known as Lagoon Executive Secretarial College in Lagos, Nigeria.

Eventually Kianda College became a 'launching pad' for past students who moved on to obtain university degrees or become owners of their own secretarial bureaus and businesses. At the same time, there were other women who qualified as teachers and remained to take an active part in running Kianda College and other institutions.

In 1967 Kibondeni College opened, offering a practical marketable training in the hospitality industry. The students learned to value their career and to give personalised attention to the people they serve.

Through Kimlea Girls Technical Training Centre, whose present Principal is a past student of Kianda College, less privileged girls and mothers from the Limuru tea estates are taught agriculture, knitting, sewing and how to run their own micro enterprises.

The latest development is that of the Tewa Training Centre at Kuruwitu in Kilifi District inaugurated in February 2010. It promotes the education of very poor women and girls in the area to meet the demands of the job market in the hospitality industry. The outreach programmes are designed to uplift the living standards of the women and help them earn a living. Already the beginning of a revolution can be seen among the girls, women and families in the production of food to the astonishment of the local community.

Since 2005, Miss Marlin is a member of the University Council of Strathmore University where her expertise, human warmth and contribution is valued as Chairperson of the Education Policy and Standards Committee of the Council. An Opus Dei biography of her appears here.

Here are congratulatory comments to Olga on the announcement of the Honorary Degree posted on the University website during the first two days after the degree was awarded. 

K. Muchemi
Well deserved.Enhorabuena Dr. Marlin. ¡Salud!
Comment made on 2011-06-23 03:37:49

jacinta makau
Very impressive Miss Marlin, through you our lives have really been transformed. some of us wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. We are proud of you Miss Marlin.kudos...
Comment made on 2011-06-23 04:00:14

Wow! Ma'am, Thank you. I have read the book, 'To Africa With a Dream' We celebrate your life...
Comment made on 2011-06-23 06:04:46

I am delighted that our university has taken the step of honouring Ms. Marlin in this way, as she has contributed so extensively to promoting education and development for women in our beloved country! She is an inspiration to us all!
Comment made on 2011-06-23 06:51:13

moses w.
Congratulations! You have done a lot.
Comment made on 2011-06-23 07:11:42

Hongera Olga!!!! After reading your book,'To Africa With a Dream' I was moved by how hopeless the situation was in the beginning. Thanks for the priceless contribution to the Education sector in Kenya.
Comment made on 2011-06-23 07:12:16

Lillian O.
As you climb to the top Olga, rest assured that grateful hands will be holding the ladder from the top and below. Many congratulations!!!!
Comment made on 2011-06-23 07:57:01

David Ndolo
Without a shadow of doubt, Ms Olga Marlin is one of the unspoken heroines of independent Kenya. You are an inspiration...HONGERA!!!
Comment made on 2011-06-23 10:23:22

Joan G.
Congratulations, we appreciate the work you have done, because am not sure where some of us would be! Asante sana na hongera kwako!!!
Comment made on 2011-06-24 06:49:02

Wow!!!! Excellent Marlin. This is the shining star which has inspired many. Congratulations!!!
Comment made on 2011-06-24 07:27:34

Tania Vaporidi
I fully agree with the comment made by David Ndolo. It is amazing how much Olga (and her team of committed ladies) has done for Kenya and Africa. She is truly incredible but she is not alone. She couldn't have achieved all this without the Grace of Our Lord. Bravo dear Olga. We are so proud of you, our Principal at Kianda College and my friend, spiritual guide and guardian of my faith.
Comment made on 2011-06-24 18:08:33


Via the Internet

The second edition of To Africa with a Dream, with six new pages of photographs and a new preface, is published by Boissevain Books and is available online from Amazon. The price is US$15.95, which is currently discounted by $1.34. Shipping and any applicable taxes are calculated during the ordering process.

Through Bookstores
The book is expected to be available for purchase through the following bookstores (list in formation):
- Portico Books
Nairobi, KENYA
- Strathmore University bookstore
- Kianda School bookstore.
Bookstore terms are available by contacting Kate at Boissevain Books.

Monday, August 25, 2014

TIME BOMBER | Author Wack Featured in Maryland Library Magazine

Robert P. Wack with his new
book, Time Bomber (Boissevain
Books, 2014).

Dr. Robert Wack, author of Time Bomber (Boissevain Books, 2014), is featured in the current issue of Currents, magazine published by the Carroll County (Maryland) Public Library.

Carroll County is outside Baltimore. It was the birthplace of Francis Scott Key, who wrote The Star Spangled Banner.

The Carroll County Public Library has six branches, in Eldersburg, Finksburg, Mount Airy, North Carroll, Taneytown, and Westminster.

Dr. Wack is Director of Pediatric Services at Frederick Memorial Healthcare Systems. He is a graduate of Notre Dame and the Georgetown University Medical School. After graduation he served with the U.S. Army Medical Corps on Germany and Hawaii.

He was inspired to write Time Bomber when he was reading a book at the Westminster Public Library called How to Build a Time Machine, by Paul Davies. The book describes the pioneering work of Dr. Willem J. van Stockum in translating Einstein's equations for his Theory of Relativity into an hypothesis of time-like curves that might make possible time travel.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

EAST HAMPTON | Bois Books at Children's Fair 2014

Featured Book: Little Old
by Hilda van Stockum
Boissevain Books LLC - which was originally created by her children to keep alive the books of Hilda van Stockum - will be represented at the East Hampton Library Children's Fair in the afternoon, 2:30 to 5:30 pm, of August 10, 2014.

Little Old Bear, by Hilda van Stockum, is the featured book. It will be read out to any children stopping by the table by the author's son,  John Tepper Marlin - or possibly daughter, Brigid Marlin, who illustrated one of Hilda van Stockum's books, King Oberon's Forest.

The Boissevain Books team has been involved in bringing a Harvard singing group, the Din & Tonics, to the Children's Fair at 4 pm.

I described the last one, a year ago, here. There were 2,500 children and their families visiting the fair.

I will be reading out Little Old Bear to anyone who will listen, in the book area under one of the tents. It takes me less than five minutes to read it out. Little Old Bear was written by my mother and I try to keep it in print by reading it out. It's a great story that appeals to young and old (the bear, after all, is old and is blind when you first meet him) and I never get tired of reading it out.

The book authors are arranged alphabetically, so the van Stockum table is likely to be close to the end of the line, by the cash register.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TIME BOMBER | Monument to Plane Crew

L to R: John Ellyatt, John Tepper Marlin and Cpl. Pamela Turney, 
pointing to the crew members to whom they are related. The 
crew members named on the monument are:
Flying Officer Willem Jacob Van Stockum, Pilot
Flying Officer John Ellyatt, Flight Engineer
Flying Officer Gilbert Daniel, Navigator
Flying Officer Robert Keith Marshall, Bomb Aimer
Sergeant Alfred Charles Perkins, Wireless Operator AG
Pilot Officer Fred Beales RCAF, Upper Gunner
Sergeant Albert Mason, Rear Gunner
The hero of Time Bomber is Willem van Stockum, my mother's brother.

Last month I attended a ceremony in France right after the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

The ceremony occurred 70 years after the downing of the MZ 684 Halifax bomber, at Entrammes, near Laval, Mayenne, France - south of Omaha Beach.

My uncle Willem was the pilot of the plane. He and two other crew members were represented by their families at the unveiling: John Ellyatt's son John Ellyatt and Fred Beales's great-niece Cpl. Pamela Turney.

In 2011, four of the seven crew members were represented by family at the Vaufleury Cemetery. The additional family member then was Robin Sumner, nephew of Gilbert Daniel.

Top photo shows two relatives of the crew of the MZ 684, 
JT Marlin (your blogger), nephew of Willem van Stockum, 
and Pamela Turney, great-niece of Fred Beales. The newly 
unveiled monument to the 1944 crash is in Entrammes.

The same day, another monument was unveiled, at Saint-Berthevin, dedicated to the MZ 532 Halifax bomber and its crew.


Uncle Willem was the person who brought my parents together. He roomed with my father at Trinity College, Dublin in 1929-32. When my father discovered that Willem had a sister, he set about wooing her.

They were married in 1932, had their first child in 1934 (my sister Olga will be 80 this year), and ten years after they were married they got me (#5 out of 6 children).

When Uncle Willem died in 1944, a light went out in the lives of my parents. It was unspeakably tragic for them and for my Granny who lived with us. She lost her husband and both of her sons within a period of a few years. Her daughter was the only one left. Granny died in 1949, the same year as her brother Eugen Boissevain, husband of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

When we came to visit the graves in 1954, the 13 RAF-administered British and Commonwealth graves had tombstones. My uncle's grave just had a simple wooden cross. I remember my mother burst into tears because she couldn't understand why her brother was singled out for not having a tombstone.

"Time Bomber", by Robert
Wack, centered on the life
of W. J. van Stockum.
It turns out it was because Willem was still a Dutch citizen (he was seconded from the Royal Canadian Air Force but was still Dutch although he had applied for American citizenship and was subject to the draft). The Dutch Government had asked my mother what she wanted to have on the tombstone and she said: "Greater love hath no man..." The tombstone arrived in due course, but my mother never came back to see it. My brother Randal and I have been back several times. The Dutch tombstone is very impressive, but it does not have on it the epitaph that my mother requested.

On the other hand, my uncle is the only one so far of the 14 members of the crew to have a book written about him - Time Bomber, written by an unrelated U.S. Army Major and pediatrician, Dr. Robert Wack.

I recommend the book for three groups of people: (1) those interested in the European theater of World War II, (2) those interested in the scientists who have examined time travel, and (3) those who are interested in the motivation and challenges of a soldier's and airman's life.  The story is based mainly on factual material about my uncle and the life he led until it was ended. The additional elements that have been added to the story, what we could call the sci-fi meta-story, make several important points that are hard to discuss any other way.

Monday, June 2, 2014

BookExpo America 2014 Short Takes

The BookExpo America autograph area.
NewYork Times story this morning by David Carr about BookExpo America says:
Someone forgot to tell the book business that it was dead. ... I walked over to the Javits Center... The immense space was brimming with optimism.
Autograph Lines. That was my impression as well. The lines for autographs were huge. One reason is that the books are given away to those who take the trouble to sign up and wait in line - a good move.

 Another reason is that people who are reading books online are hungry for physical contact - ideally, with the authors.
The entry point to the autograph lines.

At the back of each line is a publisher's representative, who stays with the author and gets more books from boxes behind a curtain. At the front of each line are people in yellow T shirts, mostly young women, who shepherd the fans to the author they want to see.

I talked with one of them, who said that she was a volunteer and was recruited via a summer publishing program.

The autograph lines are cheerful.
What's not to like?
 Some lines are so long there are extra waiting areas to one side to control the crowds. Other lines are very short.

At the end of the corridor of waiting fans is the author with a pile of books.

These are not the only autograph areas. Headline Books, for example, has a table in its exhibit area at which its authors sign books, and they even offer space to authors who do not publish with them.

Book Support Services. Besides publishers, the exhibits include publicists, printers, trade associations, collateral products (stationery, cards), distributors, remainderers and government agencies.
Sarah Miniaci, Publicist for Smith

I stopped by Smith Publicity, run by Dan Smith and his wife. Boissevain Books has used them to promote A Meaning for Danny, a Boissevain Books title. We have also used PR Web to promote Time Bomber.

Sarah Miniaci was on hand to talk to authors. She likes bloggers about books because collectively they are effective at getting the word out about authors.

The Casemate Group targets specialized markets. 
Specialized Publishers. Another exhibit that interested me was that of Casemate, which has developed an extensive line of historical nonfiction that they can deliver to academics and training programs for specialized courses.

I spoke with Jennifer Tanz and others at this stop.

Their array of books about Normandy, D-Day and World War II was impressive.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 20 - "Time Bomber" Now on Sale

Time Bomber is a Sci-Fi novel based
on real person, Dr. Willem J. van
Stockum, pilot of an RAF Halifax
bomber shot down in June 1944.
Time Bomber is the first book in a new Boissevain Books LLC series, "Science Fiction/Historical Fiction". It is for adult readers or young adults with some background in the history of World War II and a tolerance for mild swear words such as were common among military personnel in action.

It is now available on Amazon as a printed book OR Kindle eBook. To order, go to our new web site at or directly to the book's page on Amazon.

The book is written by Robert P. Wack, who is a U.S. Army Major and a pediatrician in the Washington, DC area.  

The first half of the book adheres fairly closely to the biography of Willem Jacob van Stockum (brother of Hilda van Stockum), who is known to time-travel enthusiasts as the first person to have demonstrated to a broad audience a scientific basis for time travel. 

Van Stockum showed how Einstein's equations for his special theory of relativity generate time-like curves and provide a basis for conceptualizing time travel. Van Stockum is the first scientist listed as providing a scientific basis for time travel in
 David Toomey's synoptic view of the idea of time travel. 

Van Stockum was also a bomber pilot in World War II and was shot down over Laval, France during the week after D-Day. The second half of the book explores a "What if?" question about Willem's life. Publicity for this book is being oriented to the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Monday, May 12, 2014

May 2014 - Boissevain Books Update

Seven Boissevain Books Published so far (Click title to order from Amazon):

Logo for Boissevain Books
Children's Series 
Pre-School Children and Early Grades (up to 10 years old), by Hilda van Stockum
Little Old Bear, for young children and their grandparents; suburban setting, England.
Patsy and the Pup, for young children who would like to have a puppy; in rural Ireland. 
Kersti and St. Nicholas, Dutch girl charms St. Nick into leaving gifts for naughty kids; rural Holland.

Older Children and Young Adults (7+ years old), by Hilda van Stockum 
Penengro, about gypsies; teaches tolerance and also its limits; Ireland
King Oberon's Forest, life among the animals, environmental message; magical forest setting.

Memoirs/Biography - 
To Africa with a Dream, by Olga Marlin, about her half-century in Kenya
A Meaning for Danny, by Brigid Marlin, about her son with Asperger's; England.

Update, May 2014 - Three More Books in the 2014 Pipeline
1. April 2014 - A Meaning for Danny, by Brigid Marlin co-published with Philadelphia-based Infinity Publishers, has been getting interviews, press coverage and some rave reviews. It tells the story of an autistic boy from the point of view of his mother. Some membership organizations and writers specializing in autism, Asperger's, epilepsy or mental illnesses generally have been ordering the book.

2. May 2014 - Our web site has been redesigned. Next in the Pipeline, Book #8: Time Bomber. The first book in a new series, "Science Fiction/Historical Fiction", is AS OF MAY 17 AVAILABLE ON AMAZON. The book is written by Robert P. Wack.  The first half of the book adheres fairly closely to the biography of Willem Jacob van Stockum (brother of Hilda van Stockum), the first person to have demonstrated to a broad audience how Einstein's equations for his special theory of relativity generate time-like curves and provide a basis for conceptualizing time travel. Van Stockum is the first physicist listed as providing a scientific basis for time travel in David Toomey's synoptic view of the idea of time travel. He was also a bomber pilot in World War II and was shot down over Laval, France during the week after D-Day. The second half of the book explores a "What if?" question about Willem's life. Publicity for this book is being oriented to the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

3. June 2014 - After Time Bomber, Boissevain Books will be publishing Book #9, the third book in its Memoir/Biography series, The Box House, by Brigid Marlin. It is based on a true story about a young girl in a family in England with a mother who virtually abandons her children. The girl takes responsibility for the raising of her younger siblings, and creates a secret home for them out of cardboard boxes in a vacant lot.

4. July 2014 - Boissevain Books returns to keeping in print books by Hilda van Stockum - Book #10, reprinting Andries, is in production.

5. August 2014 - We again plan to participate in the Children's Fair at the East Hampton Library, on August 10. Also, we will move into production two more books (Books #11 and #12) for adults: (1) The influence of Oxford and Cambridge alumni on the 13 original American colonies (Biography), and (2) A biography of Will Woodin, FDR's first Treasury Secretary.

6. September 2014 - The Board of Boissevain Books meets again in Ottawa, where two members of the Board reside.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April is Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month and one of the Boissevain Books LLC titles is about autism,
A Meaning for Danny - a book not for children, but for their parents.

In Brigid Marlin's son's case, the autism was combined with epilepsy and was therefore difficult to treat. The drugs for either illness accentuated the symptoms of the other.

Autism is not easy to deal with in any case. A mother who seems to be coping with TWO autistic sons has written about their story so far here. She notes that autistic children often call out the best in other people and she calls their ability to do this a "superpower".  She blogs about her experience caring for her sons at Life with Greyson and Parker.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dutch Edition of "The Borrowed House"

Cover of the Dutch
In 2013, Hilda van Stockum's book The Borrowed House was translated into Dutch and has become available everywhere in Holland. My source - a relative in Holland - says that the translation is good. The translation was requested of the publisher (Mozaiek) by a teen novelist, Ineke Kraijo.

The English edition,
ranks 6th out of 123.
The Dutch title - Dutch people are still unforgiving about the Nazi Occupation of their country - is Het Gestolen Huis ("The Stolen House").

The book in English ranks #6 right now (March 2014) among the top 123 Books for Children about World War II on

This new translation is hugely significant for Hilda van Stockum and her family. In her obituary in Het Parool, the newspaper that came to prominence as an underground newspaper in Holland during World War II, Hilda van Stockum is described as someone famous throughout the world except in her own country. Although translations have been made into a dozen languages, none of her books had ever been translated into Dutch.

The new translation will be the first translation of one of her books into Dutch.  I hope it will not be the last. She would be so proud.
Ranks 11th out of 123 books for
 children on World War II..

The Goodreads list of the 123 Best Books for Children on World War II has three books by Hilda van Stockum. Two of them rank in the top 11. The Borrowed House ranks 6th and The Winged Watchman ranks 11th. The Mitchells ranks 36th.

People have asked me how the Goodreads voting works on lists on a particular topic. So far as I can figure out, two different metrics are used. One is overall popularity, based on general reviews. On this score, Hilda van Stockum books do very well. The second metric is voting on a particular list.

For example, in my own family, The Borrowed House and The Winged Watchman are both viewed as important WWII books because they use first-hand reports to describe the Nazi Occupation of Holland. But there is some disagreement whether The Mitchells is really a WWII book. It is about the same period of time, in Washington, DC, but it takes place in a country that was not attacked. The action is in Europe, where the adult men in the family are posted.

Voting about a list seems therefore to be partly whether a book meets the criterion for the list. Anne Frank's diary has moved from first to second to third place as new books about World War II come out. But her diary has by far the largest number of reviews. If you want to check out the rankings, go to the link in the third paragraph. If you want to vote, the site for the Goodreads list:

Ranks 36th out of
123 books on WW II.
If you would like a free HvS book sent to you to review for Amazon or to vote on a Goodreads list - let me know and I will send it - at least to the first 20 people who ask me. Email me at

These lists are looked at by librarians, teachers, home-schooling parents and curriculum designers. 

The important thing to know is that on this list, your vote counts.  A single vote can move a book several places up. 

Also, chapter books tend to be read over the summer as part of reading lists targeted by period or by country. For example, in England, World War II is required reading for 10-year-olds. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PORTUGUESE | Rights to Translate or Republish Offered

From John Tepper Marlin, Tiradentes, Brazil, February 11, 2014:

I'm in Brazil for nearly three weeks. With Boissevain Books LLC's setup administrative chores are in place and I have been in touch with a few people here about a publisher in São Paolo and Rio translating into Portuguese the two dozen books by Hilda van Stockum or others to which Boissevain Books LLC has rights.

Two books by Hilda van Stockum have already been translated into Portuguese by Portuguese publishers - The Cottage at Bantry Bay and The Mitchells: Five for Victory.

The Cottage at Bantry Bay is translated as Quatro Criancas e um Cao (Four Kids and a Dog). A Portuguese edition was published in Porto, Portugal, by Livraria Civilizacao Editora in 1971, authorized by the Viking Press, New York, which published the original work in 1938. An edition has been published by Bethlehem Books by contract with the author and (since 2006) the author's estate. All residual rights have been transferred by the estate to Boissevain Books LLC, which is based in New York City. Illustrations are copyright until 2076 (70 years after the death of the illustrator). The literary copyright is valid until 2056 (50 years after the death of the author.

The Mitchells: Five for Victory is translated as A Familia Mitchell (The Mitchell Family). A Portuguese edition was published in Porto, Portugal, by Livraria Civilizacao Editora in 1974, authorized by the Viking Press, New York, which published the original work in 1945. An edition has been published by Bethlehem Books by contract with the author and (since 2006) the author's estate. All residual rights have been transferred by the estate to Boissevain Books LLC, which is based in New York City. Illustrations are copyright until 2076 (70 years after the death of the illustrator). The literary copyright is valid until 2056 (50 years after the death of the author).

In preparation for visiting Brazil, I checked out a few Brazilian publishers that publish books for children. Here are five that I found:

Grupo Editorial Danprewan. Publishes Christian books, books for children and youth. Also books on demand. Motto - changing lives. 

Editora Autores Associados. Recently it started a new imprint, Ciranda de Letras (books for children and young readers) E-mail:

São Paulo 
Callis Editora Ltda. Hardback and paperback publishers of fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults in Portuguese and Spanish languages. Children's Books (Age 1-7) Juvenile Fiction (Age 8-12) Juvenile Non-fiction (Age 8-12) Young Adult/Teenager Fiction (Age: 13-19) 

Editora Biruta Ltda. Hardback and paperback publishers of fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults in Portuguese. Children's Book (age 1-7) and juvenile fiction (age 8-15). 

Ciranda Cultural Publishing Limited.  Children's books that reach an international quality standard. Phone 55 11 3761-9508.