Rachel van Kooij

Welcome on my website. I'm a dutch austrian writer of children's and young adult literature. I was born in the Netherlands (24.12.1968) and at the age of 9 I moved with my family to Klosterneuburg, Austria, where I still live today. I have written 12 books for young readers. Some of them have a real or fictional historical background like "Bartolomé the Infanta's Pet" or "a Handful of Cards". Others are situated in our time and tell the stories of children or teenagers experiencing challenging situations like the protagonists in "Klara's Box" or "Mr. Crow must return to his Wife" and some are just fun reading like "Jonas, the Goose."


My books have been translated into many languages ( eg. Dutch, English, Korean, Italian, Japanese. Spanish, ...).

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About my books

Bartolomé the Infanta's Pet: Seventeenth century Madrid is not a kind place for a dwarf like Bartolomé, and his family has to keep him hidden in a small back room. Then the King's little daughter, the Infanta, wants to have him as her 'human-dog'. But life in the royal palace is scary and humiliating. Until Bartolomé discovers the artist's studio...
Colourful and gripping, this is an inspiring story of courage and hope.

Translations: English, japanese, Spanish, ...

Klara's Box (Klaras Kiste): Klara Meindert is teacher in the fourth grade and she is terminally ill. As long as possible she wants to stay in her class, because it is the final year for the 4b. After the summer they will change school. Their teacher will die. Julius and his schoolfriends however are determined to give her a proper leaving present. But what kind of present can you give to a person, who won't survive the summer holidays?

A sad and serious theme but not a sad and serious book.

Translations: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portugese

IBBY Honour LIst 2008

Austrian Children`s and Youth Literature Award 2006

The Cabin Boy of the Apothecary (Der Kajütenjunge des Apothekers): A story, based on historical facts, about the sixteen-year-old Jan who sailed in 1628 as a cabin boy on the Batavia (a ship of the East India Company) to the East Indies. After the Batavia is shipwrecked the crew is stranded on a little group of barren islands just of the coast of Australia, then a almost unknown continent. The newly gained safety, however, turns out to be deceptive as the apothecary and second merchant Cornelis sets up a terror regime which nobody can escape. Jan has to choose sides: to murder or be murdered.

A story about courage, oppression, responsibility and impossible choices.

Translations: Korean

A Handful of Cards (Eine Handvoll Karten) tells the story of Leny Goldstein and her family in the Netherlands during  the Second World War. Leny and her family, being jewish, are murdered in Auschwitz. All what remains of her short life is a handful of cards I discovered as a child in my grandparents' house. These cards were the beginning of a ten year long search. A search which led me not only dive into archives but also to long and deeply touching talks with Leny's former schoolfriends, neigbourhood playmates and even two surving cousins. The archive facts and the stories of the eyewitnesses enabled me to retell Leny's short life.

This book is part of my heart.

The Testament of the Gardenwitch (Das Vermächtnis der Gartenhexe): A neglected Garden is going to be changed into a wonderful playground by the city officials. But Tobias and Stefanie discover that the place still belongs to three strange old ladies. The children plan to mob the ladies out of their house and garden, but the eldest of them, nicknamed by the children as "the gardenwitch", is determined to stand up against them. Without further ado she kidnaps Tobias.

A story in which old and young people fight for their ideals.

Translations: Dutch, Italian, Korean


Jonas, the Goose (Jonas, die Gans) tells the adventures of Jonas, an overweight goose who is supposed to end as a christmas roast on the table of farmer Alois and his wife. Jonas can escape from the truck on its way to the slaughterhouse. For the first time in his life he experiences the world outside his cage. But soon he feels utterly alone and it is cold and dark in the woods. Fortunately a fox appears and offers his friendship to Jonas, who has no idea about the true nature of a fox.

A good read for cosy winter afternoons.

Translations: Chinese



Treehouse Nora (Nora aus dem Baumhaus) is about Nora, who meets her greatgrandmother Traudi. Traudi lives in a nursinghome, where sie lies in a bed and stares at the ceiling. Nora and her friend Daniel discover that Traudi can be roused from her apathy when she is treated like the young girl, she still believes she is. Hence Nora and Daniel draw up a daring scheme: They want to redecorate the commonroom to make it look like an oldfashioned livingroom and they want to throw a big party for Traudi. This meets the strong opposition of the headnurse. Only when the children can engage all the old people in the home, she will give her consent. The nurse is convinced they won't succeed. But Nora and Daniel don't give up easily.

"One of the best books for young readers for a long time" (Sandammeer, 4/2007)

Translations: Korean

Mr. Crow must return to his Wife (Herr Krähe muss zu seiner Frau): Leo is 17 and Max's big brother. Leo lives in a "limited universe," as Max calls it, so Max has to keep an eye on him. Leo and Max are at home alone when a raven bangs against the windowpane and lies on the ground half dead. He's ringed, so Max can find out where he's from. Leo is convinced that the ring is a wedding ring and Mr. Crow has to go back to his wife to get better. Whenever Leo is convinced of something, nothing and nobody can stop him. He sets off to bring Mr. Crow back to the Raven Research Station, and Max has to come with him whether he likes it or not. It takes a whole day to get there. On their trail they leave: a fake car mechanic, a totalled lawnmower tractor, two Vikings, a cow with a handcart, an ice cream truck, a broken raft, God, once nearly drowning, a quad and a helpful student (Text: www.jungbrunnen.co.at/licence/product/29239/).

Two unequal brothers on a roadtrip.

By the Head of the White Hen (Beim Kopf des weißen Huhn): Emil and Mia are best friends. So it is clear that Emil supports Mia when she returns from vacation and finds her chickens dead. Who is the murderer?
Mia is quick with accusations, condemnations and revenge plans, and Emil has to be very diplomatic to prevent that an innocent comes to harm. After many confusions the riddle is solved and it turns out that there are several guilty parties - especially ones who no one expected (Text: www.jungbrunnen.co.at/licence/product/27066/).

 Much more then just a detective story.

The other Ann (Die andere Anna): Ann and Tamara grow up with foster-parents. This works out well until Tamara wants to know more about her origin and her bodily parents. The foster-parents give evasive answers. And the folders in which the documents of the girls are stored, stay locked in a drawer. Ann too becomes curious – who is that other woman, that mother, who gave her away when she was a child? And who was this other Ann she can’t even remember? Slowly she starts to put together all the jigsaw pieces until she gets a clearer picture: a child was removed from a very young mother by the youth welfare office. And although she tried hard she didn’t get it back (Text: www.jungbrunnen.co.at/licence/product/26988/).

Based on a true story

Man-eater George (Menschenfresser George): France around 1700: a completely destitute young man steals a monk’s habit from a chapel. First he masquerades as an Irish pilgrim, then as a Japanese prince and – when he has to fear that his tall tales leak out – as an original inhabitant of Formosa who has been kidnapped and brought to France by Jesuits. He describes landscape, vegetation, culture and language of a country he has never seen. In the Netherlands he meets a Scottish priest who sees through his game. But the priest knows how to gain profit of the exotic stranger. He baptises him and brings him to London, where he becomes famous because of this extraordinary behaviour –he eats raw meet, for example. In the end bad conscience plagues George Psalmanazar and he unmasks himself as an impostor (Text: www.jungbrunnen.co.at/licence/product/27036/).

The fictional confessions of an amazing impostor based on his own historical writings.


The World's Most Important Stamp (die weltwichtigste Briefmarke): World War I, Belgium. Twelve-year-old Thierry wants to take revenge on the German occupiers for the death of his mother and joins "the twelve most daring boys in Belgium". An attempt at sabotage fails and the boys are imprisoned. Thierry's grandfather is able to get him out, but the boy has to leave town immediately and is placed with his great-aunt in Geel. Here, people with mental disabilities have been living as guests in foster families for centuries. So does Albert, who is mentally unstable. He is excellent at drawing and works on the "world's most important stamp", which he wants to give to the Belgian king. Thierry incites him to draw the German troop movements and thus puts Albert in great danger. To save him, Thierry and his friend Elsie want to take Albert to the neutral Netherlands - but the border is secured by soldiers and the electric "death wire" (Text: https://www.jungbrunnen.co.at/licence/product/30590/).

No one els like me? (Niemand so wie ich?) Eleven year old Niki is an intersex child and worries much less about this than Niki's parents do. One day, a stranger turns up at the door and causes chaos in the family. Niki is drawn into the matter and gets to know her Uncle Raimund. He has been in prison for ten years, with no contact with his family, and is now lonely and sad. Niki looks after Raimund - knowing what it's like not to correspond to the norm, to be caught in the middle of two chairs and not always being able to trust your own instincts. In return, Niki’s father gets even more upset, because he doesn’t want to have any contact with his brother. A football match is supposed to save it all, but Niki's appearance in an all-girls team does not go unnoticed. And none other than Raimund stands up for Niki (Text: https://www.jungbrunnen.co.at/licence/product/31085/)