Bizar (Bizarre)


‘Every person is a story that in no way resembles the story of anyone else. By reading, you find out what other people think.’ Taking this idea as a starting point, Sjoerd Kuyper has written Bizarre, a unique diary adventure packed with beautiful sentences and important thoughts and in which the truth is at stake. In addition, through his unforgettable protagonist, he incidentally raises all kinds of major social issues.

‘There is absolutely no structure in the world.’ This is the first thing that book- worm Sallie Mo (13) has noticed since she started keeping a diary. Writing a diary is a new experience for her: Bloem, the psychiatrist she has been seeing after the death of her beloved, wise Grandpa David, told her to do it. Go and live outside your books, was Bloem’s advice, and look at the world as it really is. And if you really can’t live without books, then write one yourself.

That, however, is more easily said than done. After all, who is in charge in a diary? ‘Real life’ or the writer? ‘Maybe everything you can imagine really does exist,’ says Sallie Mo. ‘Maybe nothing really exists and it’s all just thoughts.’ Kuyper has his protagonist struggle with such notions, presenting, with amused irony, a realistic teen who, aware that the truth is fluid, constantly misleads the reader.

The driving force behind the story is Sallie Mo’s planned conquest of her secret love, Dylan, who she meets every summer during her holiday in the Frisian Islands. When, together with Dylan and two other campers, she discovers a bunker where an armed banker’s daughter is in hiding from her rich father, the story gets really exciting.

The dramatic denouement is unexpectedly heart-breaking, but readers are not left dispirited. ‘A happy life,’ concludes Dylan, ‘means that you’ve searched well. […] If by the end you haven’t found the truth, at least you’ll have seen and heard everything that is beautiful.’ Bizarre is Kuyper at his best.

Nominatie Woutertje Pieterseprijs 2020, Zilveren Griffel 2020
Hoogland & Van Klaveren, 2019
Vertaald naar het Russisch

Het zakmes


Het zakmes shows how deep children’s friendships can be. Mees and his friend Tim, both six years old, are in grade three. The day before Tim moves to Almere he shows Mees his new beautiful red pocket-knife in the schoolyard. Mees is even allowed to hold it for a moment. When the teacher, one of the strict old-fashioned kind who don’t like pocket-knives, comes close by, Mees quickly puts the knife in his pocket. Immediately the bell rings and the boys run inside. The lesson starts and they forget the pocket-knife. The next day Mees wants to give the knife back but Tim has just gone with the removals van and has not left his new address behind.

There follows a whole series of attempts by Mees to return the pocket-knife. Attempts which demand enormous amounts of inventiveness, social skills, courage and perseverance. He tries to return the knife by mail, to put an ad in the paper in the secret code he and Tim had thought up together, to travel by train to Almere… all on his lonesome, because the grown-ups mustn’t find out.

He manages to keep it secret too because his mother, a famous singer, is seldom at home and his nonconformist father is busy being his mother’s secretary. Finally he auditions for a children’s programme on TV, gets onto the show and sings a song he has made up about the pocket-knife in the hope that Tim will be watching. In this way he is re-united with his friend.

With Mees, Kuyper has depicted a lively child whose faithfulness to his friend is moving and whose inventiveness is astounding. Reading Het zakmes is pure joy.

By Lieke van Duin (

Lemniscaat, 2017
Vertaald naar het Duits, Italiaans, Russisch, Koreaans, Sloveens

De duik


For this work of magical realism, Sjoerd Kuyper found inspiration on the island of Curaçao. He organised his thoughts in emails to his children, with songs, a monologue, a newspaper article. That was how the form of the book came about: ‘a love letter to the island of Curaçao, in 25 genres,’ as one reviewer wrote.

The focus is on 11-year-old Roly and Mila. They are looking for Roly’s dad, who has disappeared. Run off with another woman, scoffs Roly’s mum, but the reality turns out to be more exciting: Roly’s dad is lost in time. Ever since he dived under the pontoon bridge at new moon, he has been missing. Roly and Mila decide to bring him back to the present.

Masterfully, Kuyper combines diary excerpts, film scripts and comics to create a flowing and sparkling story, in which the perspective is constantly shifting. Sanne te Loo’s dreamy watercolours reinforce the atmosphere of magical realism, transporting the reader to the enchanting colours of Willemstad.

Vlag en Wimpel 2015, nominatie Woutertje Pieterseprijs 2015, Glazen Globe 2015, Jenny Smelik-YBBY-prijs 2016
Lemniscaat, 2014
Vertaald naar het Papiamentu, Papiamento, Turks

The Big L Hotel (Hotel De Grote L)


It’s the kind of day “for writing your name across the moon with a spray can”. Kos scores an impossible goal in front of a talent scout for the Ajax football team – and in front of Isabel, the most beauti­ful girl in the world. His dad is so over­joyed that he has a heart attack. From that point on, Kos seems to be the only one using his common sense – or at least trying to…

Things haven’t been going well at the hotel since Kos’s mum died, but without his dad there, it becomes impossible. How can you run a hotel and still keep on going to school? How can you paIt’s the kind of day “for writing your name across the moon with a spray can”. Kos scores an impossible goal in front of a talent scout for the Ajax football team – and in front of Isabel, the most beauti­ful girl in the world. His dad is so over­joyed that he has a heart attack. From that point on, Kos seems to be the only one using his common sense – or at least trying to…

Things haven’t been going well at the hotel since Kos’s mum died, but without his dad there, it becomes impossible. How can you run a hotel and still keep on going to school? How can you pay off a big loan when you have hardly any paying guests? Even the name of the hotel isn’t finished: they only got as far as the letter L.

And then there are his peculiar sisters. The youngest is in love with a seal, the eldest has fallen for the depressed village poet, and the middle one is keen on the captain of the Tuvaluan youth football team, who are staying at the hotel during a competition. When the hotel’s financial problems still aren’t solved, there’s only one option: winning the local beauty contest. And who’s going to take part? Exactly: Kos. Disguised as a girl, he ends up in the final with his beloved Isabel.

However comical these events may appear, ultimately the book is all about honesty, loving one another and daring to be yourself. It’s just as well that Kos pours his heart out to the microphone of an old tape recorder every evening – and that Isabel listens to the recordings and writes them down. Because that means every­thing turns out well in the end, and that we can enjoy it all in the form of this irresistible book.

Zilveren Griffel 2015, Nominatie Premio Strega Italië 2018, Premio Orbil Italië 2018
Lemniscaat, 2014
Vertaald naar het Duits, Italiaans, Russisch, Koreaans, Frans, Litouws, Macedonisch, Sloveens, Turks

De grote Robin


Last year, Sjoerd Kuyper won the Theo Thijssen Prize for his body of work as a children’s author. His stories combine readability with literary skill and depth.

‘Kuyper’s stories are real and vivid, philosophical and warm, rhythmic and balanced, nostalgic and humorous – sometimes all at the same time,’ said the jury for the Theo Thijssen Prize, reserving particular praise for Kuyper’s read-aloud stories about Robin. The dreamy young boy from a village beside the Dutch dunes made his first appearance in children’s literature in 1990 and has returned regularly ever since.

The Big Robin combines Kuyper’s three award-winning titles: Robin en Suze (Robin and Suze), Robin en God (Robin and God) and Robin is verliefd (Robin’s in Love). These are big stories about small events. Kuyper deals with important issues directly and openly. The child, with his honesty, innocence and lack of inhibition, is the central figure in this author’s work. Marije Tolman’s charming illustrations conjure up a safe little world where the imagination triumphs.

Lemniscaat, 2012
Vertaald naar het Engels

Sjaantje doet alsof


Sjaantje doet alsof by Sjoerd Kuyper and the multi-talented Daan Remmerts de Vries is a very colourful picture book, both literally and figuratively, and it may be classified within the genre of the ‘consolation fantasy’: in order to make life bearable, a young child unconsciously imagines a life peopled with characters who don’t exist or with loved ones who are no longer there.

Little Sjaantje is precisely this kind of imaginative dreamer. All she needs to play her ‘let’s pretend’ game is the empty biscuit barrel at her grandma’s house. The biscuit barrel urgently needs to be filled. And so Sjaantje sinks deep into her grandma’s blue-checked armchair and dreams away – until her grandpa flies in through the window and takes her off to buy ‘a hundred million new let’s-pretend biscuits’. This happy imaginary shopping adventure ends when Grandma comes into the living room. Sjaantje tells her that she has been able to buy new biscuits, because she’s been ‘pretending that Grandpa’s still alive’, which comes as a surprise to the reader.

In spite of the emotional issue of a dead grandpa, this story by Kuyper and Remmerts de Vries is by no means a gloomy one. They convincingly demonstrate that humour does not have to come at the expense of integrity and sincerity, and provide a perfect illustration of how young children can handle grief in a playful way, without losing their cheerful natures.

Remmerts de Vries has given Sjaantje a happy, cheeky little face. And by depicting Sjaantje’s memory of Grandpa as a lanky, clown-like man, he emphasises their close and fun-filled relationship in a simple and effective way.

Remmerts de Vries’ lavish, lively collages, made up of wallpaper, printed fabrics and a great deal of colour, are a perfect complement to this light-hearted story with a serious undertone. The window through which we see Grandpa coming and going is beautiful, as is Grandma when she eats a ‘let’s-pretend biscuit’ with Sjaantje at the end of the story. Another beautiful feature of the book is Kuyper’s text, which is simple, yet sometimes slightly ambiguous, and gives the pictures all the space they need to relate Sjaantje’s imaginative tale: a wonderfully honest consolation fantasy for children.

By Mirjam Noorduijn (

Zilveren Griffel 2008
Nieuw Amsterdam, 2007

Josje’s droom


Josje (Josie) lives in a port town together with a number of friendly animals of whom Cousin Donkey is her favourite. Her marriage with the soldier she has fallen in love with turns into a big party. But on the wedding night she has a nightmare: her soldier is picked up by ‘the Tar Men’ to go to war. He doesn’t return. Josie’s sorrow is great: ‘every word hurts’. She stuffs her sorrow into a big wardrobe, and that of the animals too: ‘Ironed flat, the little sorrow fitted onto the shelves in neat piles’ and the big sorrow hung ‘like heavy winter overcoats on the wardrobe’s hangers.’ At first it’s fine, that the sorrow is packed away, but afterwards they realize that you cannot be happy without sorrow, that it’s part of life. At the end of the book Josie wakes up in her sweetheart’s arms.

Despite its heavy themes Josie’s Dream is not a heavy book. It is prose but has the feel of a ballad about sorrow and consolation, and can be interpreted in different ways. It is written in clear language, poetic and melancholic but also sober and witty.

By Lieke van Duin (

Leopold, 1992
Vertaald naar het Engels

Majesteit, Uw ontbijt


King Donald’s love for Queen Rosemonde is deathless – even though everyone says that Queen Rosemonde is dead. The king is sure that she isn’t. She has only disappeared thanks to some evil spell. He just goes on waiting for her, even though his knights and councillors keep urging him into a second marriage. ‘I shall not remarry, Rosemonde before I have got you back. And then… I’ll marry you again.’ That the king can still talk to Rosemonde is due to the fact that he has found a replacement for her: her pillow, on which he has placed a crown. The king shows the power that imagination can engender.

The story of King Donald and his longing for Rosemonde is the framework for a series of bizarre fairy tales. Each chapter contains a peculiar story, for example the tale of a woman who always stays young, beautiful and desirable, although she herself would rather be old and fat, of the monster that eats virgins and of the knight who falls in love with a woman he is supposed to take to the king, of the princess who has to marry a whale, the singer who spent some wild nights visiting Venus’s grotto – Sjoerd Kuyper collects sagas, myths and legends from everywhere and fits these into the story of King Donald.

Majesteit, Uw ontbijt is eloquently, almost sensually narrated. Kuyper enjoys his own and other people’s fantasies and the reader shares his pleasure. The idea of connecting the stories to characters whom we meet again and again, such as King Donald, his daughter Iris, Sir Oscar and the disappeared Rosemonde, makes the adventures of the fairy tale characters much more gripping. Any other princess could be forced to marry a whale, but not Iris! We couldn’t bear it if the king had to tell the pillow queen Rosemonde that Iris had for centuries been the prisoner of a whale.

Kuyper does not mince his words and tells the fairy tales with the toughness which belongs to fairy tales and folk stories: people are beheaded, people are explicitly making love, there grief, desire, lust and passionate love – the emotions are certainly not reduced to child-size, they are joyously intense. For a whole book long, for twenty-five years, King Donald waits for his Rosemonde and all the time he’s telling stories. Fantastic stories which nevertheless are about real life. Because everything is real if it is told well.

By Marjoleine de Vos (

Vlag en Wimpel 1989
Leopold, 1988
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