Thea Beckman

Kinderen van Moeder Aarde

Written thirty-five years ago, this adventure set in the future is still just as relevant today

The Grand Old Lady of historical children’s literature – that’s Thea Beckman’s nickname. However, Beckman was not only interested in the past. Driven by social awareness and a desire to let her imagination run free, she rid Greenland of its ice and created a new state. The result was this captivating work of futuristic speculative fiction.

In Children of Mother Earth (1985), Beckman turns the world upside down. After a cataclysmic nuclear Third World War and a series of devastating natural disasters, Mother Earth loses her balance. The globe tilts. The poles melt. Greenland develops a mild climate and a new social system: Thule is a representative democracy governed by a council of women and based on a sense of community. The Thuleans understand that we should not try to manipulate nature, but instead adapt to the ground on which we live.

Beckman is not, however, purely a utopian. Her paradise has realistic flaws. Cleverly telling the story from the point of view of Christian, the son of Armina-Dottir, Thule’s head of state, Beckman makes it apparent that matriarchies do not function any better than patriarchies. ‘Every Thulean is a free Thulean,’ argues Christian when his mother prevents him from marrying the girl of his dreams. When an armed expedition ship from the Great Empire of Baden (formerly Europe) comes to Thule, the island is threatened. Will Thule withstand the men of Baden and their urge for expansion? Or is reform needed?

This compelling story encourages critical thinking about current issues, including climate change.

This book is more than worth the read. It’s gripping, with often stunning descriptions, touching moments and, last but not least, a controversial topic that invites discussion.

De Standaard


Sunlight glinted in the Vastman fjord and Christian, perched atop the highest cliff, gazed down in concentration. Things were calm in the small fishing village of Vastman. A few ships bobbed alongside the harbour’s jetty, but they were empty, as were the alleyways that ran between the town’s wooden houses. The only workers were in the shipyard, and further on some children were playing where the narrow sandy beach began. It was glorious weather. The pine trees adorning the steep hillsides cast black shadows across the reddish-coloured rocks. An osprey flew overhead, let out a shrill cry, and disappeared beyond the cliffs. Konega Island, cone-shaped and around half a mile from the coast, glittered with its white buildings and slender lighthouse, whose thick windows captured the sparkling of the sun and the reflections of the sea.

Christian had been sitting there for an hour, hoping to catch a glimpse of the girl down below who he was so curious to learn more about. She was just an ordinary girl, only a few years older than he was; her father built fishing boats, and her name was Thura. That was all he had managed to glean in the weeks gone by when, just like today, he had paddled over from Konega Island in his canoe under the pretence of going for a long walk, but in reality with the intention of finding out exactly who and what Thura really was.

For as long as he could remember, Christian had travelled by ship from the capital city of Gothab to Vastman and Konega Island every summer, with his parents and the royal retinue, to spend the two warmest months of the year in the island’s summer palace. Early in the last month of summer, they would travel back to the capital on land. For thirteen years he had spent every summer on Konega Island, had visited Vastman hundreds of times, had walked among the houses, observing the men and women in the shipyard, playing with the fishermen’s children, collecting shells along the shore, climbing trees and swimming with the porpoises. But four weeks ago when he had arrived at the jetty, moored his canoe, bounded up the steps and looked around, glad of the fine weather, the cool sea breeze and the familiar smells of pitch, rope and salt – all of a sudden, she was there.

(Excerpt translated by Brent Annable)


Thea Beckman

Thea Beckman (1923-2004) was one of the most important twentieth- century Dutch writers of children’s books. She came to fame with her award-winning historical novel Kruistocht in spijkerbroek (Crusade in Jeans), a time-travel story set amidst the Children’s Crusade of 1212. Lots more books…

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Kinderen van Moeder Aarde (1985). Kinder- en jeugdboeken, 465 pagina's.
Oplage: 100.000

Part 1 of the Thule trilogy
Age: 10+
Full English translation available

Thema's: klimaat klassiek


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