Hilda Gerarda van Stockum was born in Rotterdam in 1908. She grew up in Ireland and in the Netherlands. Her brother, Willem van Stockum, was a mathematician and disciple of Albert Einstein. He was “the first to notice the possibility of closed timelike curves, one of the strangest and most disconcerting phenomena in general relativity.” (I don’t know what that means exactly, but it does sound rather LOST-like, doesn’t it?) Willem died in combat a few days after the Normandy invasion.
The author’s first childrenâ€™s book, A Day on Skates, won Newbery honors in 1935. Her aunt, the poet Edna St. VIncent Millay, wrote a preface to this story of a Dutch picnic, saying, “This is a book which mothers and fathers will sit up to finish, after the protesting child has been dragged firmly to bed.”
Ms. Van Stockum wrote two series of children’s stories: one set in Ireland about the O’Sullivan family and another set in the U.S. and Canada about the Mitchells, a family growing together and enduring the hardships of the homefront during World War II. Here’s my review of Pegeen, one of the books in the O’Sullivan family series. I found the book at ratty old thrift store in Pasadena, and knowing nothing of the book or its author, I took a twenty-five cent chance. Good call.