A book about a social grandmother in the Netherlands

June 11, 2019 |  Nathalie van den Thillart

In this blog Dutch children’s book author, Nathalie van den Thillart describes how writing a story about dream granny ‘Omi’ was the key to her recovery from a burnout.

Sometimes dreams come true unexpectedly…

As a child I loved books. It was something magical when my father read bedtime stories to me. By the time I was 7 years I had started telling stories to my younger brother, nephew and nieces. Because there was not always an audience around, my thoughts, experiences and feelings also transformed themselves into hundreds of poems throughout the years. It helped ease my mind and made me happy.

In 2016 I wasn’t able to work or take care of my daughter for a while, because of a burn-out. It’s hard to believe, but even sending an email was too tiring. The only thing I could do and which put a smile on my face, was writing. Every day I wrote a few se

ntences. And after 3 months the story ‘Mag ik je Omi noemen?’(May I call you Nana?) had become a reality.

The main character Nana Noortje, Omi, already existed in my fantasy since my childhood. Writing about her felt as if she had come alive. And in a way she has, because Nana Noortje is based on several people who have made an impact in my life – a mixture of my own (grand) parents and other elderly people I have met. Omi is a very lively person, with a positive spirit and a lot of humour. She is a role model and shows that older people can still have dreams and are able to think out of the box.

The story centres around the relationship between Omi and her young neighbour, Lilly and Lilly’s friend Bo, both aged ten. Lilly doesn’t have grandparents anymore, Bo’s grandparents live far away and Omi doesn’t have grandchildren. They are a perfect match and Omi becomes their ‘bonus’ granny! Being with Omi is one big adventure for Lilly and Bo, there is never a dull moment. Even when Omi is in hospital, she makes everyone laugh and starts a campaign to improve the food there, with Lilly and Bo as her willingly assistants. Omi is not a planner. But when she experiences something or sees things or feels something that should be improved, she does something about it. Besides being a dream granny every child wishes for, Omi is also a true inspiration for Lilly and Bo.

The character of Lilly is based partly on myself and partly on my daughter Layla, now aged twelve Layla was the first person I read the story to. She was so enthusiastic that she wanted to take it to school to read to her classmates. She was also one of the people who motivated me to publish the story into a book, which I eventually managed to do. A dream come true.

I wanted ‘Mag ik je Omi noemen?’ to be more than a book. With a letter from Omi at the back of the book I started the project KIDS IN ACTIE (children in action) which aims to bring schoolchildren and elderly people together. I believe that these generations can enrich each other’s lives. I see elderly as valuable treasures of stories and knowledge for the young. Children are our future.  If  they grow up caring in a spontaneous way for older adults, like Omi, there is hope for the quality of our future health and wellbeing!

To receive a signed copy of Nathalie’s book ‘Mag ik je Omi noemen?’ (€15,45) in Dutch only or to contact Nathalie and hear more about her new project ‘Kids in Action’ write to: