Crusade in Jeans
Kruistocht in spijkerbroek (Crusade in Jeans) came out in 1973 and represented Thea Beckman’s breakthrough as an author of books for young people. The story is about the 15-year-old Dolf Wega, who travels in a time machine and ends up in the middle of a children’s crusade in the year 1212. He looks in bewilderment at the eight thousand bare-footed children who are singing and praying their way to Jerusalem. The crusade is led by two monks and by the shepherd boy Nicolaas, who has received from God the task of liberating the Holy Land from the Saracens.
The organisation of the army of children is in complete chaos. The children hardly have anything to eat and many of them are sick and weak. With his twentieth-century knowledge, Dolf begins to organise the crusade. Thanks to his organisational talent, he succeeds in leading the army of children over the Alps and they safely reach the beach at Genoa. There Nicolaas is to part the sea, so that the children can walk to the Holy Land.
But Dolf doesn’t believe the sea will listen to Nicolaas. He suspects that the monks have other plans for the children, but what kind of plans? Kruistocht in spijkerbroek is a breathtakingly exciting book, packed with adventure. The power of the story lies in the fact that Dolf is looking at the Middle Ages through modern eyes. His astonishment, admiration, and occasional incomprehension for the way of life of people almost 800 years ago ensure that the reader is easily able to identify with him. Beckman’s epic storytelling style and the compelling character of the story do the rest – and generations of children have now read the book.
In the Netherlands, the big story of autumn 2006 was the long-awaited film version of Thea Beckman’s classic Kruistocht in spijkerbroek. This film, an international co-production by Kasander Film Company, attracted an audience of over 400,000 and was selected for the film festival in Berlin, where it competed for the Crystal Bear for the best children’s film.
By Joukje Akveld