By Donna Barnes
Seventeenth-century Netherlands is a time and place that inspires our imagination. This maritime country conjures up images of windmills and dikes, picturesque farms, bustling cities, and harbors filled with ships returning home from far-away lands, their holds packed with spices. The small country enjoyed vibrant economic growth and a remarkably tolerant society that welcomed people of all religious backgrounds. The enormous legacy of this period of the Dutch republic, which artists, writers, and poets celebrated as its Golden Age, has enriched all our lives. As historians search for a fuller understanding of its unique character, they continually return to the central role of the family.
Children are an essential part of the story, because how they were raised and taught, how they played, and what they ate and drank offer fundamental insights into Dutch lives. The images in the book are organized around eight themes: Infancy; St. Nicholas: Bringer of Sweets and Toys; Celebrations and Music; Toys and Games; Animals as Pets and Companions; Inventing Fun, Games, and Mischief; Shopping for Food Treats; and Winter Activities: Outdoors. A recipe chapter provides inspiration for cooking projects, allowing children to prepare tastes of the past. Through words and images, we learn that while some pleasures enjoyed by Dutch youngsters 400 years ago have changed, some have remained the same and are sources of fun and excitement for children today.