The Dutch refer to the winter of 1944 as the “Hongerwinter.” Cut off from food and supplies by the Germans, as many as 20,000 Dutch civilians starved or froze to death. This is the setting for a courageous and readable new book for fourth- to eighth-graders by Rob Currie ex’79.
Kirkus Review describes Hunger Winter as a “gritty but hopeful thriller.” The story follows 13-year-old Dirk and his younger sister, Anna, on a harrowing journey across the Netherlands to reunite with their family. To write an accurate account, Currie read many books, spent three weeks in the Netherlands, and interviewed people who lived through the war.
One of the novel’s main characters is named Lars Joose, after Calvin professor Wayne Joosse ’63. Currie wanted to honor the professor emeritus from the psychology department for the impact he made on his life. “Professor Joosse had a way of affirming students for their contributions to the class that made us want to think harder and have more worthwhile comments to add to the discussion,” Currie said.“
As Dirk tries to evade the Nazis, he meets Lars Joosse, a man who encourages him that he will succeed. The traits of encouraging a younger person, along with a gift for poignantly pointing out what’s right, led me to name and model this character after Dr. Wayne Joosse.”
Currie started writing the book when his son dashed off a two-page story in study hall. Currie suggested they continue writing it together. “By the time he lost interest in the project, I was hooked on the story and kept going. We serve a God who used a boy’s lunch of loaves and fish to feed a crowd and who turned my 13-year-old son’s impromptu story into a published book,” Currie said.“
In terms of the storyline, I want readers of Hunger Winter to see and feel that whatever difficulty they face, that with prayer and the support of others, they can overcome their adversity,” said Currie, who teaches psychology at Judson University in Elgin, Illinois.