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Boxes for Katje

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Simple seeds of friendship grow into something extraordinary

After World War II there is little left in Katje's town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom "thick and bright," Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje's street to deliver a mysterious box – a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What's inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks – beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.

This inspiring story, with strikingly original art, is based on the author's mother's childhood and will show young readers that they, too, can make a difference.

Boxes for Katje is a 2004 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published September 12, 2003

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About the author

Candace Fleming

72 books500 followers
I have always been a storyteller. Even before I could write my name, I could tell a good tale. And I told them all the time. As a preschooler, I told my neighbors all about my three-legged cat named Spot. In kindergarten, I told my classmates about the ghost that lived in my attic. And in first grade I told my teacher, Miss Harbart, all about my family's trip to Paris, France.

I told such a good story that people always thought I was telling the truth. But I wasn't. I didn't have a three-legged cat or a ghost in my attic, and I'd certainly never been to Paris, France. I simply enjoyed telling a good story... and seeing my listener's reaction.

Sure, some people might have said I was a seven-year old fibber. But not my parents. Instead of calling my stories "fibs" they called them "imaginative." They encouraged me to put my stories down on paper. I did. And amazingly, once I began writing, I couldn't stop. I filled notebook after notebook with stories, poems, plays. I still have many of those notebooks. They're precious to me because they are a record of my writing life from elementary school on.

In second grade, I discovered a passion for language. I can still remember the day my teacher, Miss Johnson, held up a horn-shaped basket filled with papier-mache pumpkins and asked the class to repeat the word "cornucopia." I said it again and again, tasted the word on my lips. I tested it on my ears. That afternoon, I skipped all the way home from school chanting, "Cornucopia! Cornucopia!" From then on, I really began listening to words—to the sounds they made, and the way they were used, and how they made me feel. I longed to put them together in ways that were beautiful, and yet told a story.

As I grew, I continued to write stories. But I never really thought of becoming an author. Instead, I went to college where I discovered yet another passion—history. I didn't realize it then, but studying history is really just an extension of my love of stories. After all, some of the best stories are true ones — tales of heroism and villainy made more incredible by the fact they really happened.

After graduation, I got married and had children. I read to them a lot, and that's when I discovered the joy and music of children's books. I simply couldn't get enough of them. With my two sons in tow, I made endless trips to the library. I read stacks of books. I found myself begging, "Just one more, pleeeeease!" while my boys begged for lights-out and sleep. Then it struck me. Why not write children's books? It seemed the perfect way to combine all the things I loved: stories, musical language, history, and reading. I couldn't wait to get started.

But writing children's books is harder than it looks. For three years I wrote story after story. I sent them to publisher after publisher. And I received rejection letter after rejection letter. Still, I didn't give up. I kept trying until finally one of my stories was pulled from the slush pile and turned into a book. My career as a children's author had begun.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 308 reviews
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,253 reviews
October 21, 2011
What a wonderful story! I'm giving this book five stars, even though I was not a huge fan of the style of illustrations (though I appreciated all the details and the warmth portrayed in them) because the story is so important and made even more powerful and touching because it is based on a true story involving the author's mother.

After WWII, when much of Europe was devastated and her people struggling with threadbare clothing and not enough food, organizations in America such as the Children's Aid Society sent boxes to the families in need. In this story, young Katje in Holland gets a box from an American girl named Rosie. "What luxuries!" Katje and her mother and the mailman cry, as they take out a cake of soap and a pair of wool socks (sad that these are considered "luxuries"; the postman remarks how Holland is a sock-free country since the war) and, perhaps most luxurious of all, a chocolate bar. With her kindness and generous spirit, Katje shares the chocolate bar with her mother and the mailman. But there are so many other good people in her town who go without... When she writes her letter of thanks to Rosie, her plight inspires Rosie and her friends to do even more for Katje and her townspeople.

This is a beautiful story of friendship and generosity, and I loved the ending!!! Highly recommended! Be sure to read the author's note, too. Its theme is one dear to me because, while I certainly think that organizations giving aid can be a good and very helpful thing, I feel it is even more powerful when there is a personal connection. Rosie was no doubt inspired to send that first package by a general sense of humanity, and perhaps some encouragement from grown-ups; but what really made the generosity blossom was when she felt that personal connection with Katje; when the girl in Holland became not just a distant name on a list, but a real girl who held the pencil and wrote a letter back to her, who ate the chocolate and wore the wool socks, and saw so many others doing without. This story reminded me a bit of 84, Charing Cross Road and how Helene sent goodies back to her friends in post-war England, and how knowing them and how they appreciated and used the things she sent made her wish to keep sending more. Just beautiful!
Profile Image for Carolynne.
813 reviews25 followers
August 29, 2011
This book got an extra star because I used to live in the Netherlands and it rang really true for me. By the time I lived there, the war had been over for more than 20 years, and there was plenty of chocolate, wool, and soap, but people still remembered the privations of the War years and those right afterwards, when this story takes place. The people I knew were careful of whatever they had and made do with modest collections of supplies.

This book is based on the experiences of Fleming's mother in 1945, when she sent a box of much needed items (toothpaste, soap, and socks)to a Dutch family. In _Katje's Boxes_, Katje writes back and tells Rosie that there is no sugar to be found in Holland. In reality, Katje's father wrote back and asked for cans of meat,or powdered milk. In both cases, when the American families find out how scarce these items are, they collect items from friends and neighbors and send what they collect. The pen-pal friendship of these two little girls, Katje and Rosie, leads to supplying necessities for the whole village. Finally, Katje and her neighbors are pleased to repay their American friends. A heart-warming story, with richly colored acrylic illustrations that capture the delight of the families on both side of the Atlantic.

Pair this book with _One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II_ by Lita Judge, another book of memories of making connections with survivors of WWII. Also compare it with graphic novel _A Family Secret_ by Eric Heuvel for more family recollections of the war. Lexile measure is 460.

Profile Image for Natalie.
2,801 reviews136 followers
January 28, 2018
Really sweet story that made me cry. After WWII many people in Europe were starving and out of supplies. A family in America sends supplies to a little girl name Katje and eventually her whole town.

The illustrations were not my favorite, but they didn't ruin the story. All the love came through loud and strong. The author mentions how this story was based on the experience of her mother. I love it when stories are based on truth and when they remind me that there really are good people in the world. Mr. Rogers said that in times of trouble and disaster you should "look for the helpers" and you'll always find them.
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 1 book643 followers
February 11, 2014
This is such a sweet and heartwarming tale about relief efforts following WWII. Based on a true story, this tale follows a small town in the Netherlands and the people who lived there. They were so devastated by the war and had very little to eat, and clothes worn thin and ragged.

Due to the efforts of American charities, packages of badly needed items were delivered all over war-torn Europe and this tale focuses on the pen-pal friendship that develops between two little girls, Katje and Rosie.

I love that it shows the good that is done when people donate food and clothing items to people who are needy - it just reinforces the lesson I am trying to teach our girls when we do the same.

This book was selected as one of the books for the February 2014 - Kindness discussion at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads.
Profile Image for Julia.
265 reviews53 followers
September 28, 2017
What a wonderful book! This story is a gem. My 5 year old keeps bringing it to me to read. I know we will have to buy our own copy. Yes, I cried, but they were happy tears!
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,116 reviews186 followers
August 21, 2019
In this moving tale of the time just after WWII, when Europe and its people were still reeling from the after-effects of that bitter conflict, and suffering from widespread food shortages, and the lack of proper clothing and shelter, as a bitterly cold winter approached, a cross-Atlantic friendship develops between a young Dutch girl, and her village, and a young American girl, and her town. Katje, living in the small village of Olst, is surprised to receive a package out of the blue one day, and even more surprised to discover that it comes from America, the "land of plenty." Sent by Rosie, of Mayfield, Indiana, it contains a bar of soap, a pair of wool socks, and (most wonderful of all!) a bar of chocolate. In writing her thanks, Katje mentions how much the chocolate, in particular, meant, in a country where sugar has disappeared, and a few months later, a larger package, with plenty of sugar, arrives! And so it progresses, as the packages Rosie sends to Katje, and through her, to her entire village, grow ever larger, incorporating food and clothing donated by people from her entire town. In the spring, moved by gratitude for the help that has allowed her village to survive the winter, Katje thinks of a way to repay her American friends...

With a poignant story that had me tearing up, at various points, and lovely artwork, done in colored pencil, oil pastel and acrylic paint, that has an appealing folksy feeling to it, and that makes use of fabric patterns from the time - according to the dust-jacket blurb, illustrator Stacey Dressen-McQueen, who made her picture-book debut here, did research in the Olst town library - Boxes for Katje is a real winner! An excellent title to use with younger readers, in introducing the topics of war, and the recovery from war, and the building of friendship across borders and cultures, it would work very well when paired with other picture-books with a similar theme, from Lita Judge's One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II to Margot Theis Raven's Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot . Highly recommended, to any reader interested in the aftermath of WWII in Europe, and the process of rebuilding, after that (or any) conflict.
Profile Image for Laura Noto.
50 reviews2 followers
November 2, 2009
Boxes for Katje is a picture book for K-3rd grade readers. It features the main character, Katje, a girl that lives in the tiny Dutch town of Olst in 1945. Times are hard after the war, and the people in her town do not have a lot of clothes or food. One day Katje receives a package from America. The mailman explains that The Children’s Aid Society is helping Americans send packages full of important items to people overseas in need. She is happy to get the package and she generously shares the rare and special treat inside. Later she writes a thank you letter to the girl who sent the package, Rosie. Throughout the book Rosie and Katje write letters to each other and Rosie continues to send Katje bigger and more helpful packages. The things she sends her include sugar, clothes, canned meat, and other items that they don’t have access to in Olst. Every time a package comes, Katje shares the contents with her neighbors, friends, and family. The winter is especially hard for Katje because of the lack of food, clothing, and heat. Rosie’s church and school put together a food drive and help give Katje a miracle.
A teacher could use this book for a few different reasons. It could show the importance of charity, the influence of writing to a pen pal, or the ability that a lot of children have to make a big difference to someone else. I enjoyed that Rosie gave Katje little items at first (chocolate, socks, and soap) and it made a huge difference to Katje. This book could help American students stop taking what they have for granted. They also may put more effort into food and clothing drives that are so common in public schools.
At the end of the book there is an author’s note. This book is based off of a true story, however when it happened in real life the packages were primarily sent by adults. Young, inspired students may become upset by this. This picture book also “sugarcoats” the sadness of everyone in Katje’s village. They were starving and freezing. Some of these people actually had to eat tulip bulbs to avoid death, and this book shows them all smiling and colorfully dressed. I guess it makes the facts easier for a younger child to deal with. Other than the misrepresentations, I think it was a good story with a positive message; kids can make a difference.
February 26, 2013
California Young Reader Medal: Picture Books for Older Readers - 2006

This book was simply wonderful! I read it and then watched the DVD of the story. The movie is basically a narration of the story while the camera pans over the illustrations. I liked that I could focus on the looking at the illustrations while hearing the story. When I read the book I missed some of the details of the pictures.

This story is set after World War II when the countries of Europe were still devastated by the war. People from the US began sending boxes of necessities to different countries in hopes of giving them a little assistance. Katje receives one of these boxes in Olst, Holland and sends a thank you letter back to the little girl, Rosie, that sent her the box from the States. Rosie notices that Katje and her town need even more. Over the next year, more and more people from Rosie's community get together to continue sending more packages to Katje and the people of Olst. Through this experience they grow to be friends.

This book has wonderful themes of friendship, and taking care of others through community service. In my school, every class spends time during the 4th quarter on a leadership project. This would be an excellent book to read to a class to kick off the project. The best part is that the story is based on true events.

At the beginning of the DVD and in the back of the book, the author, Candace Fleming, explains that this is a story which was inspired by the true events of her mother's childhood. Her mother is portrayed by Rosie and she did send a box to a girl named Katje in Holland. The events in real life played out very similar to those in the book.
Profile Image for Lana Hoffman.
39 reviews1 follower
November 4, 2008
"After a young Dutch girl writes to her new American friend in thanks for the care package sent after World War II, she begins to recieve increasingly larger boxes."

This is an enjoyable story with a heart warming lesson about kindness. The author is able to show Katja's character through her actions. Children can learn the goodness that comes from sharing with others by reading Katja's story. Children can also learn about charity and the satisfaction that comes from being a giving person who helps those in need. This is also a great book for teaching children how to infer. They have many opportunities to practice this skill throughout the story. The illustrations enhance the text. Children will enjoy taking a picture walk with this book. The book jacket is engaging and the end pages are beautiful! I especially liked how the author explained the true story about the boxes at the end of the book.
Profile Image for N_Allie l.
21 reviews5 followers
November 3, 2010
Set in a tiny Dutch town of Holland right after World War II, Boxes for Katje is the perfect example of a historical fiction tale. Due to the ending of the war, all of the people living in the town of Olst had very little to survive on. Most of the necessities they needed were scarce.

We meet a little girl named Katje very early on in the story. AS the postman comes by on his bike, he shouts out, "I have a box for Katje- a box from America!" As soon as Katje opens the box she finds the unthinkable- a cake of soap, wool socks and chocolate! At this time, these items were far and few between! As Katje reaches into the box further she finds a note that simply says, "Dear Dutch Friend, I hope these gifts brighten your day. Your American Friend, Rosie." When Katje realizes that she has just received a very special and generous gift, she immediately writes back to her pen pal.

Katje and the Rosie begin a friendship through letters. Katje tells Rosie what she doesn't have and Rosie sends what she needs (because at this time, America was not in need like Holland). Katje does not keep all the items she receives, instead she gives out the gifts to people in her village who are in need (even more than she!)AS Rosie sends more gifts, the gifts get bigger and bigger. It turns out Rosie tells her friends and townspeople of the lack of necessities in Holland, and the gifts become bigger and more plentiful.

This lovely tale of friendship and heartache is incredibly realistic. The strong bond these two very different girls make is clear to be ever-lasting. I would use this book for second grade all the way through junior high. I would use it to show how we can help each other, to start a pen pal unit, to show how other countries are effected by war (later grades), or even how to help people who sometimes cannot help themselves! I would highly recommend this book to teachers and parents alike!
Profile Image for Délice.
145 reviews4 followers
January 10, 2019
Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen is a special book I discovered on a difficult day a few years ago. I was feeling suicidal and decided to go sit in the children's books section at the library. I picked this book up and as I read it, tears flowed. It was the exact message I needed that day. Based on a true story, this book tells of a little girl in post war Holland, who receives a care package from a little girl in the U.S. This is just the beginning of a beautiful pen pal relationship. The little American girl is touched by the Dutch girl's gratitude for the small gifts, and generosity with each gift. As she learns of the magnitude of the Dutch community's poverty, her heart and generosity grow and she sends bigger and bigger packages. Both of the girls' entire communities end up being impacted by this small act of kindness that grows and grows.
In light of the sickening turn our nation's immigration and refugee policies have taken, I am experiencing so much grief today instead of celebration. This is the second year that I have chosen to conscientiously object to the Independence Day festivities. I have dedicated myself to listening to the voices of the marginalized people groups in our nation and learning about our country's true beginnings which has led to a heart that just keeps breaking more and more. The message of kindness, compassion, generosity of this book reminds me that there have been shining moments in our history. I am committed to fostering these values, teaching them to my children, voting for laws that are based in them and for politicians that represent them. .
When I read this book to my 7 year old son a few nights ago, I started crying so hard I could hardly read the words out loud. A book that moves you that much is worth paying attention to. Please do your heart a favor and read this beautiful masterpiece. 💖
Profile Image for Jenny.
2,719 reviews25 followers
November 6, 2017
Based on a true story. A young girl in Holland receives a box from a young girl in America with soap, socks, and chocolate (things most of us take for granted today here in the US), but things they did not have in Holland after WWII. Katje writes back to thank her and tell how much the box meant. More boxes come containing additional precious items.
I loved everything about this book. I loved the letters between Katje and Rosie. I loved that Katje chose to share the items she received with her neighbors...even when it was just one chocolate bar and three people and she hadn't tasted chocolate to share, she decided there was enough for all of them. I love how Rosie's town came together to gather and send items to the people in Holland to help them. Particularly knowing that most people here in the US were not wealthy, were often barely making ends meet...but in comparison with the people in war ravaged Europe, they had so much and the people in Rosie's town willingly gave of what they had.

The illustrations were not in a style that would typically be my favorite, but they suited the time period and story so well. They really added to the overall message.

The book made me cry and really touched me.

11/1/17: I reread this to my 3rd graders each year in November. I love it a little more each time I read it. I still can't get through reading it without getting choked up and having tears leak out of my eyes. It's a perfect way to begin discussing gratitude with my third graders (who are mostly from fairly wealthy families), both because Katje expresses gratitude through her letters and because it helps point out that they have much to be grateful for and that even in hard times, there are things to be grateful for!
Profile Image for Julia Drescher.
21 reviews2 followers
February 25, 2014
This story is set in Holland and takes place after World War II. There is little left in the town of Olst where Katje lives. Katje is a young girl who one day receives a box from America. The box is from another girl through the Children’s Aid Society. The box contains soap, socks, and chocolate. Katje is grateful for these items and shares them with her mother and postman. There was also a letter included from Rosie, the sender. Katje sent a letter to Rosie expressing her gratitude. She explained that the chocolate was delicious and sugar is rare in her town.

The story continues with more boxes from Rosie to Katje. Each box is bigger than the last, containing more useful/valuable items. Katje is always grateful, and always shares the items with her neighbors in Olst. Rosie’s town gets involved and they are able to send many items of food and clothing to Katje and her town.

At the end, Katje sent Rosie a box. The box contained tulip bulbs, as this is how she could express her gratitude and share what she had to give with Rosie.

This is a great book to use with younger students to teach about community and helping others. The girls are likely 8-10 years old and the illustrations are very colorful and vibrant. While it is a great read with a great message, I don’t believe it would be appealing to boys in second grade or higher unless it was used as a basis for discussion. The message is wonderful and would be a great text to use when discussing pen pals or community service projects with students in younger elementary grades.
Profile Image for Danielle.
22 reviews
February 28, 2012
Katje is a young girl living in Olst, Holland shortly after World War II. Little is left of her town and her family, like so many others, must go without everyday essentials such as milk and soap. One morning, Postman Kleinhoonte arrives at Katje's door with a mysterious box from America. The box has been sent by Rosie, a girl from Indiana. The package is part of a program called The Children's Aid Society which helps collect and send hard-to-find items to the kids in Holland. As the story progresses, Katje continues to receive box after box from Rosie and each time she writes her a nice note to thank her as well as to hint at what sorts of items the people from her town are struggling to live without. Out of the goodness of her heart, Katje shares her newfound treasures with her neighbors and fellow townspeople.

I read Boxes for Katje aloud to my 5th graders the other day and they really enjoyed Stacey Dressen-McQueen's gorgeous illustrations and the sweet story of friendship and compassion between Katje and Rosie. They had many questions about WWII and the destruction it left for the people of Europe. This book could tie in very nicely with a study of WWII and the aftermath for the Europeans. It also correlated with our school wide affective goal of eliminating bullying/disrespectful behavior and the promotion of kindness amongst all. I would recommend it for students in K-5.
Profile Image for N_Colleen.
18 reviews
October 30, 2010
Candace Fleming’s Boxes for Katje is an inspiriting story that is great for readers aged 5-10. The illustrations seen on every page are packed with color, pattern and historical detail done in mediums such as colored pencils, oil pastels, and acrylic. Based on true events that happened in May of 1945 Katje, a girl from Holland receives a letter and a small box sent from America. After World War II Katje’s family and town is left with very little. When this box arrives with soap, socks, and chocolate Katja is very grateful and writes back to her friend from America telling her how much she enjoyed the gifts and about the state in which their town is in. As the months pass, Katje continues to receive much needed items from her friend in America that helps get the whole town through the harsh winter. Katje and people that live in the town are so thankful for their American friends generosity that after the cold winter they send a box from Holland to America.

This is a great story to help teach children about the importance of giving not receiving. Teachers and parents will love this book because it lends itself so well in showing why it is important to help others. School these days are often helping organizations or heading up their own service learning projects. This book would be excellent to jump start ideas and show how good deeds can help people all over the world.
10 reviews1 follower
November 11, 2016
Wow! Author Candace Fleming wrote such a captivating story it made me cry twice. The story is historical fiction based on an experience the author’s mother had in 1945 when she sent care packages to a Dutch girl after the war. Reading about how Katje and others in her town in Holland were so thankful for what the Americans sent over to them during the long winter made me tear up the first time I read the book. A few days later I read the book again and got choked up when reading about how generous Kaje was with her new bounty and how the Americans were so enthusiastic about sending more when they knew there was a need. What a great lesson about appreciating what you have and sharing with others.

This book is for students grades K-3rd and there is so much you could do with a read-aloud. There are mentions of hardships the characters go through but the focus is on the exchange between the two girls from different countries. There are the concepts of sharing and people in need to discover and discuss as you make your way through the story. Older students can use inference to discuss the impact from the war. There is even an ongoing mention of tulips in the story that would a great literacy link to a plant unit in science.
What a moving (true) story to show students the power of kindness and giving and how one person can make a difference in the lives of others.
Profile Image for Sarah BT.
643 reviews39 followers
December 30, 2009
Boxes for Katje is an incredibly heartwarming book. While the book is based on a true story, the author has taken artistic liberty and made the characters children instead of adults as in the real life story. It was actually Katje's father who wrote back asking for supplies, not Katje herself. Although the book may not be entirely factual, the story does maintain its uplifting message of generosity.

The artwork is colorful and the reader is transported to Holland through Dressen-McQueens illustrations. Readers can spot the similarities between cultures in the illustrations-friendly neighbors, a cat lounging in the yard, people talking on the street. By adding these, readers can discover that these two girls are not that different.

Boxes for Katje is a great read for all ages and one that will be sure to inspire readers to give.

When I first read this one, I thought it would be the perfect tie-in to any community giving event. I would use Boxes for Katje to kick off a canned food drive that the library was sponsoring (maybe a food for fines drive?). I would also tie in historical events with today and explain to students that even today there are people who are in need and we can help

Profile Image for L13_Patty.
20 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2013
This picture book, told an inspiring story of friendship and giving. It took place in 1945 in the small town of Olst Holland. The war had just ended and many Europeans struggled to provide basic needs for their families. Meanwhile, in Mayfield Indiana a young girl was preparing a box of necessities for another child in Europe through "The Children's Aid Society." Katje was the lucky and grateful recipient. Through the spring, fall and winter Katje received boxes from Rosie of Mayfield Indiana. She shared the contents with neighbors and fellow townspeople. The girls wrote letters back and forth, which are illustrated on several pages. Word spread in Mayfield about the need in Olst. During that cold harsh winter, Katje and the people of Olst were overwhelmed by the number of donations and generosity of Americans. After they survived the winter, the townspeople of Olst sent a fitting and timeless gift to the people of Mayfield to show their appreciation. The illustrations are from colored pencil, oil pastel and acrylic. Although this story could be enjoyed by any 2nd - 4th grade classroom, paired with a history lesson during this time period would help this heartfelt story come alive!
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews58 followers
November 15, 2016
A story set after World War II and focused on the pen-pal friendship of a Dutch girl named Katje and an American girl named Rosie. The pair was matched up via the Children's Aid Society and helped people living in impoverished areas like Holland survive the aftermath of the war. Rosie sends Katje and her community more and more supplies as the two exchange letters and in thanks for the many gifts Katje sends tulip bulbs to brighten Rosie's neighborhood.

This story is inspired by the author's mother's experience. An author's note following the story describes more of the story behind the story and the places in which the author changed details to write this story for children.

The colored pencil, oil pastel, and acrylic artwork really helps place this story in time as the illustrations reveal all of the research the artist did on the fabric and styles of the clothing of the time period.

The writing is excellent. I like the way the author chooses so purposefully the dialogue and the details. I like that readers get to read the "actual letters" the girls sent back and forth and the characterization that shines through, especially on Katje's end.

Recommended for grades K-3.
Profile Image for Luisa Knight.
2,774 reviews737 followers
January 24, 2020
It's after World War II and the people of Holland are poor and facing one of the harshest winters. How will they have food enough and clothes enough to make it through the winter?

Based off of a true account, this is a beautiful story of compassion and friendship.

Ages: 5 - 9

#history #worldwar2

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Profile Image for N_katiebernard.
18 reviews1 follower
November 4, 2010
The story tells of a young girl, Katje, who lives in Holland after World War II. Upon the end of the war she receives a box from a girl in America, who donates chocolate among other things to help those in need after the war. Responding back with much thanks, Katje and her family are extremely appreciative of the gifts. Throughout the book, the girl from America continues to send more and more gifts. Her hometown sends many boxes by the end of the book, wanting to help the families in Holland. Katje wants to give back and sends her young friend boxes of tulip bulbs to show her appreciation.

This book is a lovely way for students to learn of helping others, as well as the effects of World War II. It is an easy read, appropriate for students in mid-elementary school. The one thing that is a bit difficult to take in is the obvious "America is so wonderful" theme that is ingrained throughout the story. However, if you can get past that, the friendship and charity between cultures is quite heartwarming.
Profile Image for Paige.
24 reviews
February 27, 2014
"Boxes for Katje" by Candace Fleming takes place in Olst, Holland after World War II. Katje's family, like many other families in Olst, does not have much and struggles to get common household items. One day Katje receives a care package from a girl in America as part of The Children's Aid Society's effort to provide relief to families affected by the war. Katje pulls out the items in the box including soap, socks, and chocolate, each one more luxurious than the last. This is the beginning of a letter and care package exchange between the two girls.

I loved the message, helping those in need. While it takes place after WWII, I'm sure that many students would be able to connect to the story and identify people who need a little extra help. This book would be a nice addition to a social studies unit about community and could kick off some civics projects like a local food drive. The students will certainly enjoy the book. I can see using the letters to predict what will arrive in the next care package and the illustrations by Stacey Dressen-McQueen are inviting.
Profile Image for Christy.
50 reviews2 followers
March 8, 2009
Notable Book for the English Language Arts (BELA) 2004
Notable Social Studies Trade Book (NSSTB) 2004
Based on true events, Boxes for Katje tells the story of a tiny Dutch town after World War II. Many American charities such as the Children’s Aid Society packed boxes filled with necessities for Europeans after the devastation of World War II. In the author’s note, Fleming explains that her mother sent a box of necessities to a family in Europe and learned the oldest daughter was named Katje.
This is a heart-warming story about the joys that come with giving to people in need. Appropriately honored as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book, Boxes for Hatje fits into any World War II unit. Beyond that, it encourages discussion about the difference between needs and wants. Children in our classrooms might be surprised to read that the bar of soap was considered, “luxury” by the people in Holland at the time.
February 25, 2010
Author: Candace Fleming; Pictures: Stacey Dressen-McQueen; Grade: 1-3; (Print)
This is about a little girl named Katje from Holland, after the war when normal items and food was very limited and scarce. Katje is sent a package from an unknown pen pal from Indiana. She sends Katje socks, soap, and chocolate. The people of this Holland town are experiencing their own little depression, and the pen pal Rosie, along with other begin to send them many boxes filled with essentials and treats. The relationship blossoms, and Katje finally sends Rosie a box.

This is a good story about helping and being appreciative about the things you have. It also shows how people can be so kind to those whom they've never seen, but we tend to treat those in our own backyards with a lot of snobbishness. I would use this in grades 4 and 5 because they can understand the concept of helping those in need.
Profile Image for Heidi.
167 reviews3 followers
January 31, 2010
2003 Notable Book for a Global Society Award (IRA)
Format: Audio
Although appropriate for grades 2-6, perhaps even older, the audio recording is clearly geared for younger readers. The narrator is overly expressive and the pace is appropriate for younger readers to follow along. It includes a beep at the end of each page to indicate a page turn. Music plays in the background, adding to the more juvenile feel. The story, however, is moving in that is based on the true story of the author’s family’s relationship with another family in World War II-era Holland. This is a story about sharing, the far-reaching toll of war, and what it means to be a global contributor.
Profile Image for Todd Strader.
Author 2 books12 followers
August 8, 2013
"... Sugar is not found in Holland these days so anything sweet is precious..."

Sharing a heart warming episode from history Fleming's story illustrates humanity at our best. Told through the correspondence between two little girls this true story is a must read for every child. With its emphasis on compassion, generosity and community, I believe it especially appropriate as part of a Christmas tradition. I also happen to know this story translates well into a very moving live drama piece.
Profile Image for Susan.
785 reviews16 followers
April 12, 2018
Based on a true story of the author's mother, this story is a heart-warming tale of the generosity of people everywhere, and it makes you believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity. I cry every time I read this lovely picture book. An excellent addition to the Battle of the Books. I need to plant some more tulips!
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