Enemies in the OrchardEnemies in the Orchard

Author Dana VanderLugt, whose book “Enemies in the Orchard: A World War 2 Novel in Verse” recalls the use of German prisoners of war on farms in West Michigan during World War II, will be featured at Hope College in an on-stage conversation with retired English professor Jack Ridl on Thursday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

“Enemies in the Orchard” is geared toward a middle-grade readers and was published by ZonderKidz in September.  The historical novel features the dual perspectives of Claire, a Midwestern girl who longs to enter high school and become a nurse even as she worries for her soldier brother, and Karl, a German POW who’s processing the war as he works on Claire’s family farm,  The seeds of the book were planted more than two decades ago when Vander Lugt, who is a 2001 Hope graduate, was conducting research for a creative writing class and learned that German POWs picked apples on her grandfather’s orchard during the war.

Kirkus Reviews has called the book “An emotionally layered vision of a difficult moment in history,” noting, “VanderLugt’s reflections on war’s personal toll and the tensions of having enemy troops working in America offer opportunities for readers to consider matters from many angles.”  Among other acclaim, “Enemies of the Orchard” was named a Fall Book of Note by Publisher’s Weekly this past September; one of Ten Verse Novels to Read in 2024 by the Brooklyn Public Library; and one of the Best Children’s and Teen’s Audiobooks of 2023 by Reading Middle Grade.  Her media appearances in conjunction with the book’s publication include being featured on the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s national program this past fall.

VanderLugt has also had work published in Longridge Review; Relief: A Journal of Art & Faith; the Michigan Reading Journal; and The Reformed Journal, where she is also a frequent contributor on its daily blog.  She is a former middle-school English teacher, and now works for Ottawa Intermediate School District as a secondary literacy consultant and part time in Hope’s education department supervising secondary student teachers. She majored in English at Hope and also has an MFA in creative writing from The Sena Jeter Naslund-Karen Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University.

Ridl taught at Hope from 1971 until retiring in 2006. His publications — as author or editor — include several collections of poetry, more than 300 poems in journals and work in numerous anthologies.  He has received multiple honors for his collections, and as a master teacher and for service.  More than 90 of his former students are now publishing.

A book-signing with light refreshments will follow the presentation, and copies of VanderLugt’s book and of books by Ridl will be available for purchase.  The event is sponsored by the college’s education, English and history departments.

To inquire about accessibility or if you need accommodations to fully participate in the event, please email accommodations@hope.edu.  Updates related to events are posted when available at hope.edu/calendar in the individual listings.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.