On 20 October 2006, the president of the Dutch IBBY section, Jant van der Weg-Laverman, presented Miep Diekmann with her IBBY Honorary Membership diploma. The presentation was made at the children’s book museum, where there was only just enough room to accommodate all the friends-of-IBBY who came to listen to the laudatio by Harry Bekkering and a short lecture by Miep’s publisher Liesbeth ten Houten. In addition, Toin Duijx conducted an interview with Miep and the Minister for the Antilles Mr P.R.J. Comenencia, was present and added his congratulations to Miep on the occasion.
From the mid-1950s, Miep Diekmann (1925) played a prominent role in the world of children’s books. She stimulated developments within Dutch youth literature through reviews, interviews and readings. She was also a translator and coached budding children’s authors. Her own works number some sixty titles in various genres for differing age groups. When she was a young girl she spent five years in Curaçao: a time that inspired her gripping West Indian tales. Typical of Diekmann’s work are her impressive choice of subjects, her social involvement, the convincing characterizations of the figures in her stories and her confidence in the capacity of the reader – both cognitively and emotionally.
Miep Diekmann considers her most important task is to help children in overcoming their fear of everything out of the ordinary. Many of her books centre on “lone wolves” or individualists since she believes that a person can only be an asset to a group once he or she has learned to cope on their own.
From the foundation of the Dutch IBBY section, Miep Diekmann was one of the important promoters of IBBY. In the beginning it was not easy to find funds for the international dues, nor for the projects. When Dutch IBBY lost its membership for some years because of the non-payment of its international membership dues, Miep Diekmann appeared on national television, went to the Minister of Culture and mobilised several members of the Lower Chamber. Since that time the Dutch IBBY section has been sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science. Without this support the Dutch IBBY section would not be a member of the international family of IBBY.
By introducing new themes, subjects, and literary forms; by promoting books in translations; by guiding young new authors; by stimulating serious criticism of children’s books; by developing a well-organized IBBY section: Miep Diekmann was a pioneer of Dutch children’s literature – national and international. The special attention paid to children’s books today as well as the well-structured IBBY section of the Netherlands, is largely due to the efforts of Miep Diekmann. The Dutch IBBY section is very proud that her contribution has been acknowledged and that she is a Honorary Member of IBBY!
Toin Duijx, 20 November 2006
Pictures by Harm de Jonge