Meindert DeJong (“Mick”) was born in Wierum, Netherlands on March 4, 1906. He emigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan with his family when he was eight. He graduated with an A.B. from Calvin College in 1928. In World War II, he served in China as historian for the Chinese-American Wing of the 14th Air Force.
He worked with legendary Harper editor, Ursula Nordstrom, and agent Elizabeth Nowell, to publish 27 books for children. His first book was published in 1938, The Big Goose and the Little White Duck.
His name is found on the Newbery Awards list no fewer than five times! The Wheel on the School won the Newbery Medal in 1955. In 1954, his Shadrach and Hurry Home, Candy both won Newbery Honors. He also won Honors for The House of Sixty Fathers in 1957 and Along Came a Dog in 1959. The House of Sixty Fathers took more than seven years from writing to publication because Ms. Nordstrom thought it wasn’t good enough in the first several drafts.
In 1962, he became the first American to be honored with the Hans Christian Andersen International Children’s Book Medal, the highest award given in children’s books. He won the National Book Award in 1969 for Journey From Peppermint Street.
His book manuscripts can be found at Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.
Mr. DeJong lived for many years with his wife, Beatrice, at La Colina Cantante, their home outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He retired from writing in 1986 and passed away in 1991 at the age of 85.
As part of his Newbery acceptance speech, Meindert DeJong said, “To the creative writer there is one need, one challenge, and one duty, and it is completely subjective. His only duty is the duty of all art: to trap, as the Chinese philosopher Lu Chui put it, to trap heaven and earth in the cage of form. But before he can perform that duty of art, he has to listen for and to only one challenge: he has to listen to the cry of creativity. But he has to listen to it alone.”