Henry From Now On

MG Historical fiction                                                                         55,000 words
Henry From Now On

Chapter 1
Bad News
April 6, 1923   Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Until dinnertime, my day had been perfect. In fact, until today, my life had been perfect – almost – it would be better if I could have a dog.  But life was good. Until Pappa got home with the bad news. Here’s what happened.
We were coming home from school, as usual. Me and Hero – he’s my cousin and best friend. Running, because we always run, because we race to the center of the bridge over the canal, jumping over pigeons and horse poop on our way. We plop our rucksacks on the ground, and we stand on tiptoes, resting our elbows on the scratchy stone wall, and wait for our favorite barge to appear. Why? For Hero, he just likes anything that moves.  Me, I want to see the fluffy brown and black dog who is always there. This dog is so beautiful. I wish I could hug him.
So, we’re waiting, catching our breath. When I hear someone behind me yelling. I turn around. This boy Jorge from school –  in a grade higher than me – is walking towards me, yelling at me. I turn around.
“Hendrik, what are you going to do if the carpenter’s go on strike? What will your family do? My Pappa says your Pappa is a rabble-rouser! A troublemaker!” But the other boy with him pulls Jorge by sleeve of his brown jacket and makes him keep walking, down the side and off the bridge.
“Do you know what’s he’s talking about?” I nudge Hero, who has turned around to see what’s going on. He shakes his head and turns back towards the canal.
“There, Hendrik, it’s coming!” Hero points. We spy the barge down the canal, emerging from under the arched stone bridge upstream.  Both of us wave like crazy. It’s drifting closer, the man pressing the pole strains moving the worn wooden barge overflowing with piles and barrels of garbage. He pauses to smile and tip his hat to us, like we are proper gentlemen. The man with the net on the bow is scooping garbage using both hands, but still he nods. But the dog barks and his tail wags eagerly, making his whole body quake and he looks like he’s smiling. At me. How I would love that dog!
Just then the barge is right in front of us, we keep waving, trying to ignore the stink of rotting fish, sour milk, vegetable peelings, and who- knows-what-else! Then, it slides under the bridge, and is out of sight.
Hero and I part ways when we get to our neighborhood. I scale up worn wooden stairs, stopping at the first landing. What made today so perfect is that I wrote a poem in school. Mr. Swart had me read it standing in front of the whole class. Everyone clapped and said they really liked it. It’s in my rucksack, and I can’t wait to read it to my Oma.  The door to her flat is standing open.
“My little Henkie, come in.” My grandmother breaks into a smile just for me. She’s stirring potatoes on her burner for dinner, as I step inside her door.
“How is my Henkie?” Oma wipes her hands on her blue flowered apron, opening her arms wide.
“Very good, Oma.” All of me sinks into her arms, her softness surrounding me.
“How was school today?” She backs up enough to look at me, pushes brown and gray hair off her forehead.
“Great, Oma. I wrote a poem. It mentions you! Mr. Swart really liked it. Everyone in the class really liked it! Everyone said how good it was.
“My clever boy.” Oma plants a kiss on my forehead. “Maybe we’re going to have a poet in the family, yah?” With my jacket sleeve, I wipe away the wetness, still smiling. “Ach, are you getting too old for kisses from your Oma? Is this because you are almost ten?” Oma chuckles. “Tell me more about this poem, Henkie.”
Quickly, I put down my rucksack, and dig out my poem, uncurling the slightly bent up paper. “Here it is.” I pronounce. I carefully put back the book my teacher loaned me, his very own copy of Hans Brinker. Then I stand up, tall and ready.
“Spring, by Hendrik VanVeen.” I take a deep breath, looking over at my Oma, who waits patiently, standing with her arms crossed.
Spring is coming, yes it will,
Tulips bud on Oma’s sill.
Sun is warming, days get long,
Soon birds will sing their welcome song.
“Wonderful, my Henkie.” Oma claps. “You are a clever boy.” She looks at me, her hand on her chest. “Now you best be getting upstairs. Your mamma is waiting for you. Your sisters are already home.”
Oma holds out a plate. She knows these buttery almond Jan Hagel cookies are my favorite. “Take one,” she warns, holding up one finger. Snatching it, I shove it all into my mouth, pick up my rucksack, and begin to take the stairs two at a time to our attic flat, hoping Oma isn’t looking.
“Be careful on those stairs,” she yells after me. “Someone could get killed on those stairs!”
This is a portrait of the real “Betty.”

I love the personality of Henkie.

Beta reader reviews: Henry From Now on

Reader #1

“I like how there are many details.

I liked a lot of stuff. I liked the whole book – I read it in two days! It was so good that I had to keep reading it.

Thank you for letting me read this book. It is a great book for my age group, and when it comes out, I definitely want to recommend it to my classmates and my teachers.

Thank you,

Casey (age 9)”

Reader #2

“This is MIck (age 14). I have a couple of things to say about your book. It was well written and to me it was very emotional and to some kids, this book might bring back bad memories if what Henry went through with his dad happened to them at one point in their life.”

Reader #3

Hi Wendy,

Happy to report that I finished reading Henry From Now On, and I was captivated the whole way through by the intricacies of the relationship you developed from the family’s troubled leave-taking to the final moment when Henkie arrives at the NY farm and the care of a loving family….”I love that boy. More like the writer drew me into Henkie’s character and invited me to partake of his struggles, frustrations, dreams, and first glimmerings of the fulfilled older guy he will become. There’s a richness in Henkie’s character. Broad strokes of feelings and concern bring him to life.

You sustained the entire immigrant experience with the kind of authenticity that derives from empathy. These people meet the adjustments migrants must navigate in order to survive. I felt so deeply for their disorientation, language barriers, the prejudices heaped upon them…”

Anthony Manna, Author/Educator