Meindert DeJong is the winner of the 1954 Newbery Award for The Wheel on the School. The New York Herald Tribune praised this book for "its insight that stimulates the imagination and its clear beauty, like that of a Vermeer painting."
The scene of this latest book by Mr. DeJong is China, during the Japanese occupation. Young Tien Pao is alone on his family's sampan when the boat breaks loose from its moorings and is caught by the rushing waters of the river. When the sampan finally lands, Tien Pao is in Japanese territory. With only his pig for company, he starts on the long and difficult journey back to Hengyang and his parents.
The House of Sixty fathers could be the story of any child in any war.In his expressive pictures Maurice Sendak has caught the essence of TienPao and his faith, courage, and unwillingness to surrender his belief in the impossible.
The House of Sixty Fathers isbased on Meindert DeJong's actual experience, During World War 11 Mr. DeJong was official historian for the Chinese-American Composite Wing, which was part of Cbennault's famous Fourteenth Air Force. A young Chinese war orphan, the Tien Pao of this story, was adopted by DeJong's outfit. The boy chose DeJong as his special "father," and the two were devoted to one another.
Mr. DeJong wanted to bring the boy back to the United States with him, but because of legal complications he was unable to do so. However, the men in the outfit left the youngster well provided for when they returned to America. The Communists then took over that section of China, and DeJong has never heard what happened to the boy.