The library at Rosa’s school has no fewer than 151 books. Yet none are about her: all the girls drawn are white. Then get started yourself with colored pencils and markers. If there is nothing to choose from, then make sure there is still something to choose from. That’s the nice and cheeky message of 151 books by Pim Lammers and illustrator Hedy Tjin (Querido; € 16.99; 5+).
Anyone who thinks they can find some peace in their picture bookcase in the run-up to the House of Representatives elections is wrong. Because where people are in the picture, choices are made. So picture books can suddenly contain a political message. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be annoying at all.
About the author
Pjotr van Lenteren prescribes de Volkskrant about children’s literature. He is chairman of the Boekids children’s book festival.
Rather, like checking out the new self-published ones Saint Nicholas (Dematons; € 17.99; 4+) by Charlotte Dematons proves. He did the same thing as Rosa, but the other way around. In the successor to the 2007 bestseller, she has painted over the Pieten. And once started, the artist immediately tackled everything that could use innovation in Spain.
Even the Pieten’s employment contracts have been modernized: from now on things will be democratic and egalitarian in Spain. The Pieten have a works council and no longer sleep in bunk beds but in a new-build flat with their own studio, shower and toilet. An electric steamboat is still being worked on.
Special: Dematons did not simply make new drawings, but renovated the old illustrations. This is possible with the opaque acrylic paint she works with. The original story is literally in the layer beneath the new one. Anyone who has an old and a new copy at home – and that is by no means everyone, because Saint Nicholas is the fastest-selling children’s book since Harry Potter – has a very interesting time document.
Preschoolers also have opinions
Nothing for children, all those opinions from adults? Nonsense. Children, especially from kindergarten on, have to deal with opinions and choices on a daily basis. They try to influence others and agree or disagree with each other. So why wouldn’t picture book makers talk about different ways of looking at the world?
This can also be done in a less direct way. If you have to choose, the Dutch debut by French picture book maker Louise Drul (Boycott; € 19.95; 6+), wittily responds to the dilemma conversation that many children like to have. Would you rather go to the beach in your ski suit, or to the North Pole in your underwear? Do you want a robot to play with or one that will clean up your room? On a flying scooter to school or on the back of a giant cat? The dilemmas become more colorful with every page.
That the world can be more beautiful without glasses is evident in how beautiful and funny it is Bear’s glasses by Leo Timmers (Querido; € 17.90; 4+). Bear has lost his glasses and on his way to his friend the giraffe he encounters a deer, a flamingo, a crocodile and an elephant. At least, that’s what he thinks. His friend sees a dead tree, a flower, a bush and a stone. Bear quickly takes off his recovered glasses.
Rethinking for advanced students
A hilarious lesson in thinking for advanced students Crying my eyes out by Noemi Vola (Parade, € 16.00, 5+), who stood out earlier this year with the equally successful life story of an earthworm. The message now is to do something useful with your sadness. Sounds rude, but so many ideas pass by that in the end it no longer sounds like a crazy idea.
And nice: in these types of stories with animals as main characters, readers and viewers have been able to decide for themselves with whom they identify since time immemorial. Perhaps the best, most democratic invention ever.