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Young Adult Fiction Coming Of Age

When the Dikes Breached

by (author) martha attema

Ronsdale Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2022
Coming of Age
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2022
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 18
  • Grade: 7 to 12


A powerful coming of age story grounded in historical fact, When the Dikes Breached is a new YA novel by award-winning author Martha Attema.

February 1953, a spring tide combines with a strong northwestern storm, causes devastating flooding in the southwestern part of the Netherlands, parts of Belgium, France, England and Scotland. When the dikes breach, the floods not only unleash death and destruction for sixteen-year-old Klara van Burgh and her large family but unearth a dark family secret.

In this small island community, steeped in tradition, the Church controls the lives of citizens, who live by strict rules and a social class system. Klara, destined to marry the son of a prestigious farmer, reads poetry and longs for far away shores instead of becoming a farmer's wife. During the flood, Klara and her sister are rescued by a fisherman, and she discovers that class doesn't matter. Her heart belongs to him. After many months, the family returns to the island to rebuild their farm and prepare for Klara's wedding. But Klara feels trapped and needs a plan if she hopes to lead her own life.

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.


martha attema's profile page

Other titles by martha attema