Debbie Spring has been a writer for over twenty years. I was deeply touched by her book, THE RIGHTEOUS SMUGGLER (Second Story Press, 2005), which is a part of the Holocaust Remembrance Series, and was short-listed for CBC’s Young Canada Reads. It was star-rated in “Our Choice” Magazine by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
Debbie was invited to speak in Ottawa by The Netherlands Embassy during Holocaust Education Week next month. The Ambassador will be there to hear Debbie present THE RIGHTEOUS SMUGGLER to school children at the libraries. She has spoken to over 4,000 students about “one person making a difference”.
Debbie is also the author of BREATHING SOCCER (Thistledown Press, 2008), and WILMA THE WILD WHITE WHALE (Small World Publishing, 2001).
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BOOK, THE RIGHTEOUS SMUGGLER.
Based on real events, The Righteous Smuggler tells the story of Hendrik, the young son of a poor Dutch fisherman who decides to risk his own life to save his friends.In 1940, when his country is invaded by Nazi soldiers, Hendrik is forced to grow up faster than he ever expected. He and his parents see their community being destroyed and their Jewish neighbors persecuted. Hendrik hates that his very best friends can’t come to school anymore and that their former classmates are turning against them only because of their beliefs.
When Jews are being taken away to be imprisoned or worse, Hendrik’s family decide they must do something. But what can they do against the Nazi patrols? With the help of a mysterious boat captain they begin their dangerous campaign of “smuggling.”
WHAT INSPIRED THIS STORY?
When my son was about ten, we were camping at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. Josh was playing with a boy from Holland who noticed my husband’s Jewish Star and pointed. “What’s that?” he asked. I replied, “We’re Jewish.”The boy got very excited. “During the war, my Uncle helped smuggle out Jews in Holland.”I said, “Your Uncle is a hero. I would like to meet him.”He said, “You can’t.” I asked “Why?”He said, “Because he was caught and killed.”I was very moved by the story. That was the seed that started my book.
HOW MUCH RESEARCH WAS INVOLVED?
I went to Holland I saw the Annex where Ann Frank hid. I sailed across the English Channel in a sail boat. That gave me a true feeling of what it was like to cross the sea in a small boat. The current was very strong and the waves were huge. I got quite seasick. I interviewed Holocaust survivors. I had to make sure that my dates and maps were accurate.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
I am currently writing a book about a Jewish couple who survived the Holocaust in Romania and escaped to Israel. This is a different type of writing. The book records the grandparents’ stories so that their grandchildren will know not only their family tree, but their personal stories will never be forgotten.
Debbie, thank you for sharing your insights about THE RIGHTEOUS SMUGGLER and for your contributions to Jewish literature for children.