Novel explores the story of Dutch settlers on the Iowa plains

May 14, 2013

When author Renae B. Vander Schaaf learned about the unique history behind the founding of Orange City by settlers from Pella, she knew she had to share it with young people. Her book, A Place of Refuge, is a historical novel for young adults that follows thirteen-year-old Elsje Van Der Zuiden as she faces the possibility of moving away from her family farm near Pella to a new home—what she thinks of as the treeless wilderness of northwest Iowa. A Place of Refuge was published this spring by the Write Place in Pella.

Reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie with a Dutch twist, A Place of Refuge vividly depicts the everyday life of a farm girl in Iowa in 1869, including adventures such as milking, berry picking with friends, a surprise birthday party, and even becoming an aunt. Vander Schaaf has captured the uniquely Dutch feel of the time period, incorporating Dutch words, history, hymns, and recipes throughout the book. Interspersed amongst the fictional characters and events are real historical figures, such as Pella’s Mayor Henry Hospers, whose search for good land in Iowa finally leads them to the place of refuge that would one day become Orange City.

With its historical aspects and charming narrative, A Place of Refuge will be of interest to any parent, grandparent, or school teacher who wants to help young people learn more about the unique Dutch history in Iowa.


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