Hilda van Stockum

Self Portrait, used with permission

“Totally autobiographical about her family. See, people want to know who is the protagonist; it is the family. About the family trying to get along in a world that is sometimes inconvenient, sometimes hostile, and many times friendly.” – Dr. John Tepper Marlin, son of Hilda Van Stockum, in our August 31, 2022 interview, commenting on his mother’s books about the Mitchells.

The Marlin Family, used with permission

Hilda Van Stockum was born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1908. Hilda’s father was in the Dutch Royal Navy, and so in her first year of life she began her international upbringing with a journey to the West Indies. When they moved back to the Netherlands, Hilda was homeschooled for her first twelve years, then her family moved to Ireland. In Ireland, Hilda went to art school. In 1932, Hilda married her brother’s American friend, Ervin Ross Marlin. To fund her passage to the United States, she wrote A Day On Skates which established her as a children’s author. In 1936, Hilda became an American citizen. Hilda is a beloved author of ours because she writes stories that are vibrant and authentic. 

When we were preparing for our formal interview with Dr. Marlin, he told us that people would often remark to his mother that she had “such interesting children.” Marlin said that his mother always chuckled at that remark because she thought all children were interesting, but that most parents don’t listen much. Hilda was an astute observer of people, and children in particular. And John said that his mother was always listening to people, and afterward scribbling down detailed notes about their stories. All of her books were born out of overheard conversations, anecdotes from letters, and stories people would tell her. 

The Irish books (Cottage at Bantry Bay, Francie on the Run, and Pegeen) are based on the stories of an Irish friend. The Winged Watchman was based on the experiences of her family in the Dutch resistance during WWII. The Borrowed House is based on the experience of someone who is still alive and cannot be named. And The Mitchells series is largely autobiographical of the Marlin family during WWII and their subsequent years in Canada. 

Book Reviews

We have begun the process of reviewing as many of Hilda’s books as we can. As we add more reviews, we will update this list.

A Day on Skates (1934). A Newbery Honor book of 1935.
The Cottage at Bantry Bay (1938) (Bantry Bay series) (Audio Review)
Francie on the Run (1939) (Bantry Bay series)
Kersti and St. Nicholas (1940)
Pegeen (1941) (Bantry Bay series)
Andries (1942)
Gerrit and the Organ (1943)
The Mitchells (1945) (Mitchells series) (Audio Review)
Canadian Summer (1948) (Mitchells series) (Audio Review)
The Angels’ Alphabet (1950)
Patsy and the Pup (1950)
King Oberon’s Forest (1957) (illustrated by Brigid Marlin)
Friendly Gables (1958) (Mitchells series)(Audio Review)
Little Old Bear (1962)
The Winged Watchman (1962) (Audio Review)
Jeremy Bear (1963)
Bennie and the New Baby (1964)
New Baby is Lost (1964)
Mugo’s Flute (1966)
Penengro (1972)
Rufus Round and Round (1973)
The Borrowed House (1975) (Audio Review)

Book Clubs

Plumfield Moms & Biblioguides Borrowed House Book Club

Sara’s Winged Watchman club

Plumfield Moms & Biblioguides Borrowed House Book Club

Recorded Book Club Discussion

Mighty Networks Borrowed House Book Discussion

Additional Resource: The Ring the Fire book review


Plumfield Moms & Dr. John Tepper Marlin

August 31, 2022