Author

Martha Heesen

Having won three Zilveren Griffels (De vloek van Cornelia, Mijn zusje is een monster and Stekels) and the Gouden Uil for Toen Faas niet thuis kwam (2003), Martha Heesen (b. 1948) is undeniably one of the best children’s authors in the Netherlands. A strong psychological portrayal and evocative narrative structure are characteristic features of Heesen’s writing. Her books are all about brooding, dreamy children. And yet her tone is light and sure-footed.

The Curse of Cornelia

The Curse of Cornelia

(Querido Kinderboeken, 1999, 98 pages)

Staf gives us a first-person account of the bewildering year he was forced to spend in an old house in a fashionable neighbourhood near the Hague. The move is necessitated by his father’s new work. Mother gives up her job and throws herself into the renovation and embellishment of the house. From the very first day, it is clear to Staf that their new home will bring them no luck.

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Hackles

Hackles

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2001, 82 pages)

Thirteen-year old Adam is a singular, quiet boy. Stazie, the eleven-year old girl next door, is the only one to whom he dares let know, now and again, what’s really going on in his mind. He sees the rest of the world, and his parents in particular, as a front that has to be fought against. This he does by systematically refusing to talk. Although he conducts lengthy, but incomprehensible arguments with his cat, Habib, about numbers and inventions, at school his marks for mathematics leave much to be desired. This makes his parents so desperate that they seriously consider sending Adam to boarding school. Stazie feels she must prevent that happening at all costs.

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When Faas Didn’t Come Home

When Faas Didn’t Come Home

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2003, 84 pages)

Eleven-year-old Faas, a rich imagination, is a typical Martha Heesen figure. Exactly what goes on inside his head is unclear; the reader observes him through the eyes of his older brother Peet, who finds him a mystery too. This makes Faas all the more intriguing, and Heesen’s low-key narrative style leaves plenty of room for the reader to supply the missing information. She never explains what had happened on the fateful day one year previously, when Faas ran away from home and was brought back at dead of night.

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Wolf

Wolf

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2006, 94 pages)

Children love dens and caves, hidden places where you can hide away in safety; tree houses have a particular appeal. Adults aren’t quick to follow you up there, of course, and it also reverses the roles rather nicely: finally the adult has to look up at you for once. In Wolf, the new book by Martha Heesen, Nene and her friend Coppe each have their own branch of the tree. But they’re missing a roof over their heads. So Coppe goes looking for a piece of corrugated iron and in the dark he ends up under a motorbike.

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Watson

Watson

Of hoe je een meisje verovert met 23 uitvindingen en 1 muis

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2007, 87 pages)

‘My name’s Carl. I’m ten years old, and I’m an inventor. (I invent things for everyone I know.)’ These tantalising words are the opening sentences of Martha Heesen’s Watson of Hoe je een meisje verovert met 23 uitvindingen en 1 muis (Watson, or How to Win Over a Girl with 23 Inventions and 1 Mouse): a fascinating, light-hearted and psychologically believable story about friendship, inventions, bothersome mice and pigheaded girls.

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Bajaar

Bajaar

(Querido, 2011, 124 pages)

‘This is not our life. This is not even our house. Whenever I wake up, I’m there again, it’s then again – it’s still back then.’ It’s intriguing and rather melancholy – and it’s how the touching story of Julia begins, a thirteen-year-old who longs for the past, when her parents were still part of her life.

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