Author

Joke van Leeuwen

Joke van Leeuwen (b. 1952) studied history at the University of Brussels, performs in cabaret and theatre shows, writes stories and poems for children, which she illustrates herself, and writes prose and poetry for adults. She has received innumerable awards, including the prestigious Theo Thijssen Prize, the triennial Dutch State Prize for youth literature.
In her work, Joke van Leeuwen champions the uninhibited way children look at the world, fighting against repression and narrow-mindedness. A number of stories are about a quest in various stages, such as Deesje (Dee Dee) (1985), Wijd weg (Far Away) (1991) and Iep! (Cheep!) (1996). Joke van Leeuwen demonstrates that high quality literature need not be inaccessible.

  • This public appearance in New York shows Joke van Leeuwen’s great sense of fun and feeling for language.

Deesje

Deesje

(Querido Kinderboeken, 1985, 88 pages)

In Deesje by Joke van Leeuwen you roll along with the main character from one adventure into the next. And not only as far as the story is concerned; reading the words and looking at the pictures is one big surprise. In the work of the doubly talented Van Leeuwen, text and illustrations complement each other perfectly, and humour and seriousness intermingle. The language is packed with puns and the comical black-and-white drawings are really different and also tell a story. A veritable feast for the eyes.

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Cheep!

Cheep!

(Querido Kinderboeken, 1996, 149 pages)

One characteristic of classics is that they tell us the most ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Alice’s constant growing and shrinking, for example, teaches her that nothing is what it seems to be. And Pinocchio’s nose shows him that lying doesn’t pay. Iep! is based on a similar principle. Like Deesje and Bobbel, main characters in Van Leeuwen’s previous books, Eep is pervaded by an enormous longing for freedom, a demand for space for people as they are. Eep is a creature with little wings and little limbs that closely resemble legs. Little legs with little toes and ‘little nails on those toes and tiny little crumbles of earth under those nails on those toes on those legs.’…

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Dunno

Dunno

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2003, 80 pages)

Kweenie (Dunno) is the name of a strange little creature with a big, yellow, beak-like nose who suddenly tumbles onto the bed of the first-person narrator, a small girl with a mop of hair. Kweenie doesn’t know who he is or where he comes from. All he knows is that he’s fallen out of a story that had just started and that he fears will now continue without him. When the little girl sees how sad he is she decides to help him find his story.

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Thinking Half a Dog Whole

Thinking Half a Dog Whole

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2008, 125 pages)

As modern media consumers, we receive around four thousand images projected onto our retinas every day. Four thousand! That’s an incredible number. But there’s no way of stopping them. The digitisation of the 21st century is an irreversible process and the visual culture is now more dominant than ever. The highly regarded and very versatile author/illustrator Joke van Leeuwen has written a beautifully designed book on this very subject.

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What Are You Doing in My Bed?

What Are You Doing in My Bed?

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2011, 16 pages)

‘What are you doing in my bed?’ These words echo like a mantra through the pages of Joke van Leeuwen’s picture book for toddlers. Although technically speaking, ‘pages’ isn’t quite the right word. Waarom lig jij in mijn bedje? is constructed as a ‘leporello’, a concertina book that can be folded out to make a strip that’s a couple of metres long.

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Somewhere

Somewhere

(Querido, 2016, 48 pages)

In Joke van Leeuwen’s most recent picture book, Somewhere, she demonstrates once again that high-quality literature need not be inaccessible. This philosophical graphic novel is about a mountaineer who falls into another world, where everything is put into question.

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