In Memoriam Anne de Vries


Anne de Vries was a Dutch curator, in charge of the children’s books collection of the Royal Dutch Library in The Hague, and a senior lecturer on children’s literature at the Free University of Amsterdam. De Vries was particularly interested in the criteria academics and professional reviewers used to evaluate children’s books. This resulted in his dissertation Wat heten goede kinderboeken? De theoretische opvattingen over kinderliteratuur en de praktijk van boekbeoordeling in Nederland, 1880-1980 (1989) (What is Considered to be Good Children’s Literature? Theories of Children’s literature and Reviewing Practices in the Netherlands, 1880-1980). While de Vries applauded the emancipation of children’s literature from moralizing and didactic agenda’s, he also belabored the point that children’s authors should always make themselves understood, however high their literary aspirations may be. This view was expounded in a much-discussed article with the title “Het verdwijnende kinderboek: Opvattingen over jeugdliteratuur na 1980” (1990, The Disappearance of Children’s Literature: Perspectives on Children’s Literature after 1980). Following the disappearance of childhood, children’s literature is also in the process of disappearing, de Vries argued, to be replaced by a relatively new phenomenon towards the end of the century: children’s literature for adults. This might well leave children without a literature of their own, a development which de Vries deeply regretted. Anne de Vries was remarkably knowledgeable about the history of Dutch children’s literature and published on time-honored genres such as ABC books and nursery rhymes. His book Van Alphen tot Zonderland (2010), a survey of Dutch children’s poetry from 1624 to the present, quickly established itself as a standard reference work on the topic. At the same time, he did not shy away from intervening in debates about contemporary children’s literature in public media.

Anne de Vries was not only a fine scholar, but also an effective organizer. In his position of curator, he played a crucial role in the foundation of the Kinderboekenmuseum (Children’s Books Museum) in 1994. He was a board member of the Dutch scholarly journal on children’s literature, Literatuur zonder leeftijd (Ageless Literature). He was also an active member of the IRSCL and served on its executive board as treasurer from 2001 to 2007, always on top of things, extremely kind to those who needed discrete support, unfailingly willing to go the extra mile to retain members and full of schemes to make IRSCL bigger and better.

After an early retirement, he devoted most of his time to writing the biography of his father, Anne de Vries sr. (1904-1964) a highly prolific and widely read author of regional novels, children’s novels, readings methods for primary school education, and, last but not least, a Bible adaptation for young children. Several generations of Dutch protestant youth have grown up with these books. De Vries jr. regretted that the high popularity and widespread use of de Vries sr.’s works had somehow always impeded the acknowledgement and appreciation of its literary qualities. The biography Een zondagskind: Biografie van mijn vader (2010, Fortune’s Favourite: A Biography of my Father) is an admirable balancing act between his own personal entanglement with his father and the scholarly meticulousness that is typical of all his publications. It was well received, and de Vries did quite a bit of interviewing and lecturing in the wake of its publication. His last intellectual achievements were two books about nursery rhymes which were published in 2015 by Amsterdam University Press.

We gratefully acknowledge his heavy investment in scholarly collaboration, his wide-ranging knowledge of Dutch children’s literature and his deep commitment to its proper appreciation.

Vanessa Joosen – Helma van Lierop – Lies Wesseling