Ella and Monkey at Sea was inspired by my own childhood experience sailing to America. Would you like to hear what really happened?
• I really did have a toy monkey named Aap which means monkey in Dutch. He was given to me as a present on my first birthday from my parents.
• Like Ella and Monkey, I really did board a ship and Monkey really did come along.
• In real life my father and little brother were with my mother and me.
• The ship we sailed on, the S.S. ROTTERDAM, really did sail into a hurricane.
• I found out only recently that the hurricane was named ELLA, so I decided to name my main character after the hurricane.
• The weather was very stormy and most people on board got seasick. The weather in fact was so bad that the voyage took eight days instead of seven.
• I spent a lot of time in the playroom and I really did draw a picture of the sun!
• In real life I actually got First Prize for my picture! The grownups were so excited that I had drawn a picture of the sun in the middle of a storm. We never saw the sun the whole trip. In fact, did not draw lots of sun pictures like Ella, or give any pictures away.
• Since in real life my father was with us, when the ship docked in New York we were lucky to have my mother’s aunt and cousin there to meet us.
• The SS ROTTERDAM is now permanently located in Rotterdam harbor, the city in Holland from which we sailed. This boat sailed around the world for 42 years, first as a passenger ship and later as a cruise ship. When the boat was old and run down, it took it’s final voyage from the Caribbean to Gibraltar where it was renovated. Then it was towed all the way back to Holland. You can learn more here and here.
• Before I wrote my story I went to visit the SS Rotterdam in the harbor. It is now a floating museum a restaurant and a hotel. Being on the ship again helped me to remember what it was like to sail from Holland and emigrate to America all those years ago.