HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: When the Dikes Broke
Author: Alta Halverson Seymour
Illustrator: Fred Irving
Publisher: PrairieView Press, revised edition published in 2004
Related website: http://www.prairieviewpress.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Seymour, Alta Halverson. When the Dikes Broke (originally published in 1958 by Follett; revised edition published in 2004 by PrairieView Press, P. O. Box 88, Neche, ND 58265). Thirteen-year-old Lisa van Rossem lives on a farm outside of Kuyfoort, not too far from Dortrecht in the Netherlands, with her father, mother, older brothers Klaas, who wants to be a farmer like his father, and almost-fifteen-year-old Dirk, who wants to be engineer, their grandmother, and their shepherd dog Rex. They raise cattle for milk and cheese and sheep for wool, and they grow onions, potatoes, sugar beets, and apples. Their mother’s brother, Uncle Pieter, and his wife, Tante Anna who is going to have a baby, are visiting the van Rossems. One night a terrible storm rises up.
“How the wind blows tonight! As if it wants to tear the house up by the roots,” says Tante Anna. But the van Rossem family isn’t worried. Their house is strong and solid And the dikes that hold back the sea are strong, too. However, that very night they awaken to the shriek of sirens and the clang of church bells. They hear an even more frightening sound too–the rush of water flooding the house. And then comes the cry that strikes terror to the heart of every Dutch boy and girl: “Get to your attic. The dike gave way!” Everyone climbs to the attic, and the men are able to escape in a boat to go for help. But when they return, the women have had to climb on the roof and Anna has been swept away. What will happen to them all? And will they ever find Anna?
Based on a real event, the great flood that swept over Holland in January, 1953, this book, which was originally published in 1958, was republished by Scholastic Book Services in 1964. A slightly revised edition, in which “minimal editing has been done to maintain acceptable standards for wholesome, character-building reading, while preserving the flavor and style of the original publication,” was published by PrairieView Press in 2004. It is a gripping story that is full of adventure, realistic interaction between siblings, and information on life in Holland near the dikes. After reading it, children will never forget one important fact of Dutch geography, that much of it has been reclaimed from the sea. Not only does it depict the heroism of people working together to achieve a common aim, but it also illustrates great inter-generational family relationships. And there are numerous examples of people thanking God and praying to God during their trials.