There are hardly any taboos for children’s books: ‘Children are curious about everything’

Almost anything is possible in a children’s book, as long as it is well written. Stella Linders and children’s book author Peter Kollewicz “Student Book” agree. In the middle of children’s book week they highlight the importance of children’s book.

As a child, Stella Linders devoured the gifts of Children’s Book Week. For example, the Disappearing Scrapbook from 1976, which many authors have worked on, including Hans Dorrestijn and Willem Wilmink. “I think I’ve read it a thousand times. And I still have it at home. It’s about a girl who’s been through all sorts of things, and there’s how to learn Morse and how Roman numerals work.”

All topics are suitable?

A book that you can learn something from when you were a kid. “Learning something is not necessarily necessary in a children’s book,” Linders says. She is now a book finder at IKC Het Groene Hart in Zuidwolde and in bookstores, offering reading advice. “You have different children. Some just read to dream away and learn nothing. A children’s book doesn’t have to be educational.”

According to her, there is no taboo in the topics. “Children are curious about everything. If it is well written, you can also discuss very heavy topics in which children can find comfort or support.”

Children’s book author Peter Kolwijk of Emin agrees. “I’m fairly open about it. Heavy themes of death and bullying and voices pop up in your head in my books. Some rigidity should be allowed, eg about someone in the family getting hit. But there are limits, some things are very intense and disgusting. You don’t write About a child who is structurally abused. I don’t want to read that either.”

Imagination, emotion and depth

Koolwijk has now written eight children’s books himself and won the Gouden Griffel Prize for Gozert in 2021. His next book is in the works. As a child he loved to read, but was unaware of Children’s Book Week. He got his books from the library. “I didn’t go to the library.” He also only knew about Book Week gifts later. One of my personal favorites is Shark Teeth by Anna Waltz, a book about escaping from home. “I read it and then got to know such a writer and want to read more.”

What makes a children’s book a good children’s book? “For me, there should be three elements,” Koolwijk says. “A piece of imagination and imagination that you can indulge in as a reader. Emotion, there must be laughter, but there can also be tear. And something of a subject, children must learn something.” Koolwijk also doesn’t think this should be in every children’s book. “But what I love about getting to know a character.”

Bookfinder Leenders increasingly see depth as lacking. She feels that her childhood books were more challenging. Give Anna series as an example, such as “Anna brushes her teeth.” “I would never choose that for a baby girl. It’s very good. I would prefer someone like Annie MJ Schmidt who said that children are allowed to do naughty things now and then.” Imagination in stories is also important to Leenders. Dog man for example, half dog, half police officer from American Duff Bilkey. “It’s almost like a comic book, but this series is great.”

inclusivity

According to Linders, a good children’s book writer also gets a feel for what’s going on in society. “You often see literature getting ahead of society,” she says. She believes that it is very important for every child to be able to identify a book, so Linders praised the fact that the main characters in the books are more diverse and inclusive.

“Over the past 20 years that have really deteriorated, you can now see that things are going in the right direction again. It is important that children of color appear more in illustrations, like Milo Freeman’s books. I gave her a book at school for a girl from Africa. You see it It becomes clear, and you become happy, when you read this book. The main character in it is also a girl of color. You should be able to find yourself in a book, including children with disabilities, for example.”

This, too, the writer Kolvík realizes. “This is very important. I’m white, I come from a white environment and went to a white school. My eyes had to open up to that too, now there. But inclusivity is not only about people of color, but also ADHD and kids who don’t have a good time at home.”

According to Koolwijk, writers are more inclined to put something into stories. He concludes, “A person who loves the same sex is more inclined to write about it. I write about ADHD. But the world of writing is white company.” Children of all backgrounds need to be excited to finally put their own backgrounds in books. “I think there’s a natural drain. The generations after us will be more diverse, but then they should now have books to go with.”

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