Jan was Foltz’s great-great grandfather and his story dates back nearly two centuries, to Holland in the 1830s. Foltz, a personal historian and writer from Indianola, Iowa, committed last year to bring Jan’s story to print for present and future generations to enjoy. That includes her three grandchildren, with the eldest (at age 7) “just getting old enough to understand.”
The result is a 24-page book, Jan Napjus and the Ghost, written in what Foltz calls “a minimalist style” and lavishly illustrated by Susan Convery Foltz, whose watercolors are visually pleasing and authentic to the time period.
At the heart of the story is Jan, the young runaway whose adventure sparks opportunities for contemporary parent-child conversations about possible solutions to Jan’s problems.
“Jan made some choices which should be questioned and discussed by the adult reader and the child,” says Foltz. “Was it wrong for Jan to run away? What else could he have done to escape an unhappy home? In rural Holland in the1830's there wasn't much Jan could do, but talking it over gives us a chance to see how our little contemporary listener would do in a similar situation. Jan fibbed about being a ghost-chaser to get a job and have at least one meal. Was that wrong? Each family will feel differently about how far one can go to save a life.”
The book is available online for $15.99, but Foltz will make it available to readers of this blog for $12.99 if you contact her directly.
Larry Lehmer is a professional personal historian and senior legacy planner at When Words Matter where he connects generations through their stories. To learn more, visit his web site, send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter.