Bryna Hellmann

Bryna Hellmann

Forty years ago, living in a small village in northern Germany, where we were the only foreign family, I wanted to read American and English books to my three bilingual children. The American Consulate 50 miles away had a little lending library, and family in the US sent books for birthdays and Christmas. For a few years, we had a supply of those wonderful stories no child should be denied: Curious George, The Cat in the Hat, Stuart Little and later The Phantom Tollbooth and even Tarzan of the Apes. Together we read E B White, Maurice Sendak, Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton, and in time we moved on to Mark Twain, T H White and John Masefield.

One day the consulate library closed, we weren’t expecting anything in the post, and the kids and I were desperate for something new. Necessity being the mother of creation, I sat down to write some stories for them. A few of them got no further than notes, summaries and tentative first pages, but they came along when we moved to Holland. Then, one morning a few years ago, those yellowing pages surfaced, and I spent the rest of the day reading them and wondering whether I was a better writer than I had been half a century before. ‘Go on,’ I told myself, ‘Nee heb je,’ which is Dutch for ‘If you don’t try, the answer is no.’

So in 2007 I wrote about Sarah, who met some pirates in Salem in the 1770s, in 2009 Becca and the Druid emerged from a few paragraphs about a little boy and a magician in Wales, in 2010 Rosie and the good and brave Milo came along to rescue the children in their bewitched country, and in 2011 I turned a poem I wrote for my granddaughter Jessica into ‘The True Story of Noah’s Ark’. Four books about four brave and clever girls. No vampires, no werewolves, theirs is not Harry Potter country. Real life is challenging enough, isn’t it?

When my son Scott pointed out that other people might be far from a bookstore or a public library, he suggested, ‘What about a website lending library?’ So here it is, and here’s how it works:

Choose one of the buttons for the first chapter of one of the novels. If, after reading it, you think your daughter would like to have the whole story, complete with illustrations, send me an email at, and I’ll send it to you. You can either print it out, or she can read it on your or her own computer.

You don’t need to send me any money, they really are Not A Penny Books. But please give me some feedback: did your daughter enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them? Honestly, I’ll be pleased whether the answer is yes or no, and especially if you tell me why. Best wishes, happy reading and groetjes from Holland,