Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 8 to 11
- Grade: 3 to 6
- Reading age: 8 to 11
In the darkest days of WWII, nine-year-old Ria is determined that her mother give birth in a home filled with light. Despite the cold, harsh winter, German occupying forces have cut the supply of electricity to civilians all over the Netherlands. Now the whole population must scrounge for wood to heat their dwellings and make what light they can with the few available candles. At home in Friesland, Ria's father is in hiding. Her closest friend, Rachel, and her family have been taken away because they are Jewish. The local mayor is a Nazi sympathizer. And Ria's mother is about to have a baby and is afraid to give birth in a cold, dark house. Ria knows the risks, but she is determined to find a way to bring light into her family's home in time for the baby's arrival. Her bold plan may place others in danger, but, in carrying it out, Ria learns something that has the power to save lives.
About the author
Martha was born on a dairy farm in Friesland, one of the northern provinces in the Netherlands. The family used horses for work and play. She trained and worked as a kindergarten teacher and made up stories, puppet plays and songs for her students. In 1981, Martha immigrated with husband, Albert and three children to Canada. They settled in North Bay, Ontario. Albert worked as an engineer, the children went to school and Martha attended Nipissing University to obtain her teaching certificate. After graduating, she took creative writing classes and became a member of the North Bay Children's Writers' Group. She taught kindergarten for many years and today teaches grade one Language Arts, Drama, Music and Computers. Again Martha found herself writing songs, poems and stories for the students.
The members of the Children's Writers' Group, encouraged her to send her manuscripts to publishers in Canada and the United States. In 1995, she published her first novel, A Time to Choose. This war novel is set in Friesland and deals with the Resistance. Martha was delighted when her first book won the Blue Heron Book Award. Martha's dream of becoming a published author had come true. Martha loves student feedback during school presentations.
Their children have grown up and left home. Albert and Martha have nurtured another dream. They always wanted to live off the grid and use solar and wind energy to power their home. In 2004 that dream came true. Together they built an off the grid straw bale home just outside the town of Powassan in Ontario. The house is super insulated, partially built with renewable resources and powered by renewable energy. They are self sufficient except for the propane tank that fuels the cooking stove.
In her new office, overlooking farmers' fields, she feels inspired to write many more stories for young readers.
- Commended, CCBC Our Choice
- Short-listed, Sydney Taylor Award nominee