Over the course of her life, Nynke van Hichtum develops into an authority on the field of youth literature. Not only does she write books, she also reviews them, edits them and, finally, translates countless foreign books for young people into Dutch. Publishers welcome her as an expert in children’s books and value her advice in the field.
Van Hichtum’s debut, the collection of short stories Teltsjes yn skimerjoun / Verhalen in de schemering is published in 1887. In the years that follow, she works as a journalist for weeklies, educational magazines, newsmagazines and other publications. In a later phase of her life, Van Hichtum concentrates on collecting and adapting nursery rhymes, legends, fairy tales and folk tales. She gives the books that were meant to sound enticing. In Oude bekenden, published in 1937, she brings together Grimm’s and Andersen’s classic fairy tales. A translation into Frisian was to be published in 2003 under the title Alde Kunde.
In many of her books, for example in Jetse, Een Friesche vertelling and Drie van de oude plaats, Van Hichtum brings the Frisian countryside to life. Other books have a more exotic setting. The children populating Van Hichtum’s books display a universal behaviour. Her readers must be able to identify with them. Besides, the author wants her books to convey knowledge to children. With this goal in mind, she describes a child’s life in Greenland in De geschiedenis van de kleine Eskimo Kudlago. Moreover, Van Hichtum translates a number of famous English books, including Winnie the Pooh and Robinson Crusoe.
Van Hichtum held strong views on youth literature. Through her articles in magazines and the advice publishers took from her, she made a major contribution to the discussion about children’s books. In newspapers and other publications, she mainly gave practical advice on good reading matter, motherhood and raising children. She held the view that children’s books should be artistically justifiable, their contents captivating, restrained in their choice of words and attractive to both young and old. She therefore commissioned famous artists, such as Tjeerd Bottema and Cornelis Jetses, to illustrate her books.
Nynke van Hichtum’s books mirror the time she lived in. Hardship and poverty are regular themes. The values she considered to be of great importance keep recurring in her books, namely, warmth, attention, sincerity, and tolerance.