The Boy Who Held Back the Sea

The Boy Who Held Back the Sea
The Boy Who Held Back the Sea

Charming picture book retold by Lenny Hort and illustrated by Thomas Locker that tells the story of a rather delinquent boy in fifteenth century Netherlands who reforms himself after he discovers a hole in the dike and plugs it with his finger.

Jan was a boy who never studied, who was always crying wolf, who once lied to his parents about visiting an old man and instead went into town and broke windows, and was a basic truant.

One day Jan and his dog discovered a leak in the dam.  He ran for help and told the constable but he wasn’t believed because of his history of making up stories.  The constable told the boy to run back and await help, but the constable had no intentions of sending help.  He saw an old captain and told him to run for help, but the captain wasn’t believed either because he was accused of breaking windows (when it was really Jan).

Hence, Jan ended up plugging the hole himself with his finger while he awaited help that was never coming.  He sat there all night until the next morning he was discovered by the schoolmaster.  He was tired and weak but had saved the city.  A grand festival was held in his honor, but Jan snuck off to visit the old man he was supposed to have visited before.

The Boy Who Held Back the Sea is a timeless story of doing what is right in the face of adversity. Great pictures.  Great portrayal of the historical time period.  Great lessons for kids about always telling the truth and always keeping your promises.  Great portrayal of the consequences of crying wolf and vandalizing property.  Yet, in the end, it’s always possible for redemption. Highly recommended!

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