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Tonke Dragt (born November 12, 1930) is a Dutchmarker writer and illustrator of children's literature. Her book De brief voor de Koning was chosen as the best Dutch youth book of the latter half of the twentieth century.


Antonia Johanna Dragt, better known as Tonke Dragt, was born in 1930 in Batavia on the Dutch East Indiesmarker (currently Jakartamarker in Indonesiamarker). She spent the largest part of her youth there, including three years in a Japanese prisoner's camp during the Second World War between 1942 and 1945. She came to the Netherlandsmarker with her family after the war. She studied at the Academy of Visual Arts in The Haguemarker and worked afterwards as a drawing teacher in secondary schools, living in The Hague.

Tonke Dragt first published stories in the magazine Kris Kras, and her first book appeared in 1961. She became one of the best known Dutch youth authors in 1962 with her second book, De brief voor de koning ("The Letter for the King"), which won the "Gouden Griffel" for the best Dutch youth book of the year. She continued to produce at a high rhythm during the 1960s, but massively reduced the output of new work in the next decades, although collections of older short stories filled up many of the gaps.

Apart from writing and illustrating her own books, Tonke Dragt also made illustrations for some other books, including work by Paul Biegel, E. Nesbit, Rosemary Sutcliff, and the novel Elidor by Alan Garner.

The work of Tonke Dragt has been translated in many languages, including German, English, Afrikaans, Czech, Spanish, Danish and Indonesian.

Style and themes

Many of the books and stories by Tonke Dragt are situated in a fantasy or science fiction environment, although usually closely related to or intertwined with the real world. De brief voor de koning, Geheimen van het Wilde Woud, and a few short stories, are set in a fictional medieval world. Torenhoog en mijlenbreed, Ogen van tijgers, and related stories, are near-future science fiction stories, where the action happens on Venus and Earth. De Torens van Februari alternates between our world and a parallel world. De Zevensprong is most firmly set in a realistic setting.

Tonke Dragt uses elements of legends and fables, most clearly in Verhalen van de tweelingbroers. Her stories are mainly focused on one or a few male protagonists, often teenagers. They go on a personal quest, a search that may be externalized in an item like the letter in De brief voor de koning, but which results in a discovery of their own persona.

Success of The Letter for the King

The book The Letter for the King (Dutch: De brief voor de koning) has sold over 1 million copies so far. The book has been translated many times, and reached its 22nd printing in Dutch in 2007.

In 2007, it premiered as a musical theater piece. This was the second theater production based on the works of Tonke Dragt, after an adaptation of De Zevensprong.

The movie based on the book, starring Derek de Lint was released in the summer of 2008. Tonke Dragt is now considered to be the greatest Dutch female writer for children.


Title Year Translations Remarks
Verhalen van de tweelingbroers 1961 German
De brief voor de koning 1962 Catalan, Danish, German, Estonian, French, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Czech
De blauwe boekanier 1964 German Offered for free as the yearly Kinderboekenweekgeschenk
Geheimen van het Wilde Woud 1965 Danish, German, Japanese, Spanish Sequel to De brief voor de koning
De zevensprong 1966 Danish, German, Spanish Later turned into a TV series
De trapeze 1967 Collection of stories
De blauwe maan 1968 A series of 8 short books
Torenhoog en mijlenbreed 1969 German, Czech, Afrikaans
De torens van februari 1973 English, German, Danish
Water is gevaarlijk 1977 Collection of stories
Het gevaarlijke venster en andere verhalen 1979 German Collection of stories
Ogen van tijgers 1982 German Sequel to Torenhoog en mijlenbreed
Het geheim van de klokkenmaker, of De tijd zal het leren, of De tijd zal je leren 1989 German, Spanish
Aan de andere kant van de deur 1992 German Sequel to Het geheim van de klokkenmaker: an announced third part hasn't been published thus far.
De robot van de rommelmarkt / Route Z 2001 German, Slovenian Two stories, one a prequel to Torenhoog en mijlenbreed
De blauwe maansteen 2005 German
Het dansende licht 2005 Collection of stories
Wat niemand weet 2007 Illustrated by Annemarie van Haeringen


  • 1963: Kinderboek van het Jaar (Children's book of the Year, the predecessor of the Gouden Griffel) for De brief voor de koning
  • 1971: Nienke van Hichtum Award for Torenhoog en mijlenbreed
  • 1976: Staatsprijs voor kinder- en jeugdliteratuur (the highest award in the Dutch language area for a youth author, can be won only once per author)
  • 1995: Buxtehuder Bulle, an Award for youth literature given by the city of Buxtehudemarker, for the German translation of De torens van Februari
  • 2004: Griffel der Griffels for De brief voor de koning (award for the best Dutch children's book of the past fifty years)
  • 2005: Victorine Hefting Award, an award for women in The Hague who have contributed to the cultural emancipation of women


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