Bart is a little 8-year-old child of the large Bartels family who lived in Drenthe in the early twentieth century. Father was a labourer working for meagre wages, and a farmer. Mum Bartels takes care of the house and the kids at home and gives birth to a child at every turn; the tenth is already on the way. The family all live together in a small house that father can rent from a farmer friend. Unfortunately, the house is rather small, too small for such a large family. As a small boy Bartje admires his father greatly: a big strong man working from early morning until late at night. With his mother he can not get along, especially if she promises him a kohlrabi meal because he doesn't like beans. When that evening he just has to eat kidney beans and also needs to say grace, the little Bartje rebels with his: "Ik bid nie voor brune boenen ..." After this he is sent outside by his father and mother stating that he must find other parents. Moreover, Bartje regularly gets whipped by his father when he is naughty. When the landlord of the house commits suicide, it seems that the family has to go to the poorhouse, but a rich farmer from Groningen buys everything and even offers dad a regular job. But the farmer turns out to be a real slave-driver and also the son is a very annoying child. When Bartje and his brother Arie play a prank on him, his father demands reparation from the Bartels family. They demand that Bartje gets punished in their presence. This results in a brawl in which the father loses his job and the house and so the family ends up in the poorhouse. During this period Bartje learns to appreciate his mother more and more and finally sees the true character of his father. With elder sister Lammechien and son Gert away from home and son Arie on the wrong path, Bartje assumes a responsible role in the family at a young age.
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