In 1847, 800 Hollanders made the long journey to Iowa from the Netherlands and founded the town of Pella. This fall, that story is being celebrated by the Pella Historical Society and Museums with A Place to Call Home, the latest children’s book published by the Write Place.
Written by Rachel Line of Wahpeton, North Dakota, and illustrated by Sallie DeReus of Pella, A Place to Call Home tells the story of Jakob, a 10-year-old boy who has just arrived in Pella with his family. At first, Jakob isn’t sure if he wants to live in this strange new place. But as time goes on, he slowly comes to love the little sod house the family digs out of the side of a hill, the log cabin they build together, and the tight-knit community the Hollanders create in the heart of the beautiful Iowa prairie.
Jakob’s story was started in 2012 during a meeting of the Pella Historical Society and Museums planning committee. The topic on the table was restoring the Pella Historical Village’s sod house—a replica of the dugouts Pella’s settlers lived in during their first Iowa winter. The original replica had collapsed several years prior, so the committee was making plans to reconstruct it with sturdier materials.
But even as the plans for the new sod house came together, something was still missing from the exhibit.
“We really wanted to make the exhibit interactive and get kids interested in it,” said Pella Historical Society and Museums Associate Director Allison Limke. “We came up with the idea of creating a children’s book. Sallie DeReus, who is a long-time volunteer with the Museums, offered to create the artwork.”
Limke then got in touch with her sister, Rachel Line, and asked her to write the book. Line, who teaches sixth grade reading, jumped at the chance.
“I started storyboarding everything,” said Line. “I really tried to see the story from the perspective of a kid, to write about the things a 10-year-old boy would notice and capture what he might have been feeling after moving so far away.”
When the story was complete, Line sent it back to DeReus and Limke for the illustration phase. After spending several months researching the lives of Iowa’s Dutch settlers, DeReus planned each of the book’s illustrations.
The publication of A Place to Call Home marks the realization of a life-long dream for Line. “I’d love to continue writing books for children and am grateful for this opportunity,” said Line. “With this book, I hope young readers discover you can be both entertained by a story and learn something from it. I also hope they are inspired to think about their own family’s history.”
The Pella Historical Society and Museums will host a book signing for A Place to Call Home on October 21 at the Vermeer Mill and Historical Village. The event will start with a reading of the book by Line at 10:30 a.m. in front of the sod house replica. Then, everyone will move inside the gift shop for the signing, where copies of the book are currently available for purchase. The event will last until 12:00 p.m.
Copies of A Place to Call Home will also be given to all the elementary schools in Pella, the Pella Public Library, and Vermeer Yellow Iron Academy.
Author Rachel Line grew up on the prairie of North Dakota. She currently teaches in Wahpeton, North Dakota, and has a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and an MBA in Teaching and Technology. Illustrator Sallie DeReus lives on the DeReus family farm near Pella. She has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Art as well as a deep love for local Dutch history and the beauty of Iowa’s natural landscape.