Author

Peter van Gestel

Peter van Gestel (b. Amsterdam, 1937) made a name for himself in the Netherlands as a scriptwriter for radio and television. In the late 1970s, he started writing for children of about eleven and up in a weekly magazine and later on a newspaper. His main characters are lively young oddballs who have not yet made the choice between conforming and remaining somewhat of an outsider. They observe others often in taciturn astonishment. Van Gestel is strong on dialogue, his use of language is highly individual, while at the same time coming over as real vernacular. He has a great sense of humour and a finely honed insight into the psychology of his characters. His books have won many awards. The diaries of Ko Kruier, earned Van Gestel both a Silver Pencil award and the Nienke van Hichtum Prize. For Winterijs (Winter Ice, 2001), he received three Dutch awards: the Gouden Griffel, the Woutertje Pieterse Prize and the Nienke van Hichtum Prize. In 2006 Van Gestel received the Theo Thijssen Prize for his oeuvre.

Mariken

(De Fontein, 1997, 192 pages)

Eight-year-old Mariken is considerably younger than most of Van Gestel’s main characters. She lives in a time like the Middle Ages and her story was inspired by a miracle play well known in the Netherlands. A foundling, she was raised by an old eccentric, who, besides teaching her the laws of nature, also taught her to read. All her knowledge of human existence comes from the chapbook Mankind Is a Farce, but when Mariken goes out into the world in search of a new goat, there appears to be much, much more out there.

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Winter Ice

Winter Ice

(De Fontein, 2001, 250 pages)

Ten-year old Thomas Vrij suffers from a great sadness. He hides it from others; otherwise they would just feel concerned about him. And he doesn’t want that, quite the opposite. So he never complains about anything. Not about his cold knees covered in scabs, his hunger, or being bullied at school, nor the fact that his mother died from typhoid just after liberation and that his father has never got over it. He would rather make up stories about dogs stuck fast, frozen in the ice, using big words such as ‘wretched’ and ‘marvellous’. His classmate, Piet de Zwaan, who is called Piem at home, is the prototype of a professor who knows everything but gives nothing away. Nevertheless…

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That Day By The Sea

That Day By The Sea

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2003, 207 pages)

Peter van Gestel’s That Day By The Sea is lively and amusing, and yet it is the dismal story of a dysfunctional family, a story prompted by death. The narrator is Sibille (‘Sip’), who talks straight from the heart about her older brother Cham. It is Cham who brings excitement into her world. He takes an old magician’s top hat and pesters unsuspecting customers on a café terrace, he drinks beer even though he is only thirteen, and stays away for nights on end.

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Little Felix

Little Felix

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2008, 130 pages)

Peter van Gestel has already won an award in recognition of his oeuvre, but he still keeps on writing. Kleine Felix (Little Felix) is his latest book, which is set in post-war Amsterdam and is reminiscent of his well-received Winterijs (Winter Ice).

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