Author

Toon Tellegen

Toon Tellegen (b. 1941), a GP by profession, became famous primarily for his poetic, philosophical animal stories about Squirrel, Ant, Mole, Hedgehog and the other animals, who are carefully trying to find their way in an incomprehensible world. However, his extensive oeuvre also includes fairytales, children’s books and poetry and prose for adults. Tellegen began his writing career as a poet. In 1984 he published Er ging geen dag voorbij (Not a Day Went By), his first collection of animal stories for children. Four more collections were to follow and all these stories were then collected in Misschien wisten zij alles (Perhaps They Knew Everything, 1995). Two of Tellegen’s books feature the elephant as the main character: in Jannes (1993), an elephant leads the protected life of a young child in a world in which every being wears a trunk. In Teunis (1996), on the other hand, the main character is the only elephant in a world of human beings, which results in the humorous description of the struggle of someone who is ‘different’. Besides his animal stories, Tellegen also created Juffrouw Kachel (Miss Stove, 1991), the terror of all schoolchildren, and Mijn vader (My Father, 1994), a loving portrait of the world’s most amazing father. It is no surprise that he has won both the Theo Thijssen Prize (an oeuvre award for writers of books for children and young adults) and the Constantijn Huygens Prize for his entire oeuvre

Not a Day Went By

Not a Day Went By

(Querido Kinderboeken, 1984, 108 pages)

Er ging geen dag voorbij (Not a Day Went By, 1984) is a collection of forty-nine animal stories about the squirrel, the ant, the cricket, the elephant, the bear, the whale and the other creatures who feel at home in surroundings where woodland, river, mountain, desert and sea lie close together.

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My Father

My Father

(Querido Kinderboeken, 1994, 106 pages)

Toon Tellegen’s animal stories were originally published under Querido’s children’s book fund, but have now been compiled for an adult audience. An unusual, but quite understandable development. Tellegen is a self-willed writer who is difficult to place into any of the accepted literary pigeonholes and now readers of all ages have discovered his remarkable animal forest. A delightful place for language lovers who are wont to entertain strange thoughts now and again. Here, the profound brooding of Tellegen’s poetry for adults finds an endearing, comical counterpart without losing its serious undertone.

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Letters to Anyone and Everyone

(Querido Kinderboeken, 1996, 86 pages)

Tellegen’s bizarre, moving and unfailingly poetic mental constructions generated a body of enthusiastic readers of all ages and won all major prizes for children’s literature. According to the index in Toon Tellegen’s collected animal stories Misschien wisten zij alles (Perhaps They Knew Everything), there are 169 animals living in the Tellegen’s story-book woods. His favourites appear to be the hedgehog, the frog, the cricket, and the beetle. The squirrel, the ant, and the elephant crop up so frequently that it would be impossible to list all the page numbers.

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Tony

Tony

(Querido Kinderboeken, 1996, 61 pages)

There is probably not a single animal which is excluded from the theatre under Toon Tellegen’s direction: the mosquito and the mole, the stick insect and the sperm whale, the hippopotamus, the hedgehog and the snail. Besides the main characters, squirrel and ant, there is, however, a special role reserved for the elephant. In Tellegen’s animal stories he is the only one who has managed to winkle a name off the author. Four years ago Jannes suddenly appeared, a tiny pachyderm protagonist in a world inhabited exclusively by elephants who, together with his mother, led a contented existence that precisely resembled that of a human toddler. Accordingly, he wore overalls and his mother a…

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In the Middle of the Night

In the Middle of the Night

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2005, 79 pages)

It is dark in Toon Tellegen’s animal forest. Squirrel wakes up with a start when someone taps on his window. This is the start of a restless night in which a carp, a beetle, an elephant, a fire-fly and a cabbage worm will fight insomnia. Small thoughts can sometimes grow grotesque in the dark and some animals grow melancholy, something no one can explain. The owl struggles with his smallness in the omnipresent darkness, the hedgehog cleans like mad to impress unexpected guests. Only the worm and the mole are happy, celebrating darkness with melancholy songs sung deep underground.

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Pikkuhenki

Pikkuhenki

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2005, 30 pages)

Pikkuhenki, is a classic and unusual fairytale about two young heroes, Pikkuhenki and Iwan, who ‘long ago, in a land far from here’ set off into the world, where they are confronted with fear, sadness, doubt, light and darkness and, strengthened by their travels, turn safely homewards.

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The poetry of Toon Tellegen

(Querido, 2006)

‘Someone told me I was a room.’ This is how one of Toon Tellegen’s poems begins. It is a typical beginning for him, nothing is explained, we have to assume that this is now the reality within which the poem will unfold. And indeed, the person in question seizes the opportunity to look at himself as a room: ‘A room! I thought. Perhaps even a drawing room!’ He elaborates on this insight and concludes: ‘but when I pursued this thought, there were walls missing in me, and doors and slanting rays of light.’

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Tomorrow’s Party

Tomorrow’s Party

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2008, 101 pages)

Poet and children’s writer Toon Tellegen is best known for his poetic animal stories about the squirrel, the ant, the mole and the elephant. The imaginary biotope of Tellegen’s forest is a perfect reflection of the world in all its absurdity, impossible to map because there are no clear connecting routes. The creatures who live there make naive and pointless attempts to understand their peculiar world, but rarely receive any clear answers to their important questions, many of which have a philosophical slant. Morgen was het feest (Tomorrow’s Party), is once again packed with layers of meaning, inventiveness, wistfulness, questions, puns and plays on words.

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Everyone was there

Everyone was there

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2009, 380 pages)

Toon Tellegen has been writing his philosophical animal stories since 1984, each about two pages long and unique in their kind: written in a simple, yet sparkling tone, they are hidden gems that, once discovered, exert an irresistible attraction.They tell of Squirrel, Ant, Elephant and all their fellow creatures, whose lives glide along, apparently without meaning, in an impossible biotope: in Tellegen’s forest of animals all of the creatures have the same size and strength and each is the only one of its kind. Everything and everyone lives together in harmony. Everything is possible and there are no obligations.

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Wat dansen we heerlijk

Wat dansen we heerlijk

(Querido Kinderboeken, 2010, 48 pages)

“That’s absolutely hopeless!” declare the animals, as they watch the rhinoceros dancing with the hippopotamus. And it’s true – the wild way these two thick-skinned creatures come crashing together and fling each other about doesn’t have much to do with dancing. But these aren’t just any old animals: they’re characters in a book by Toon Tellegen, a writer who has created a genre all of his own with his philosophical and absurdist animal stories.

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The Whale’s Garden

The Whale’s Garden

(Querido, 2015, 57 pages)

The whale already has a fountain, but he’s missing a garden to go around it. So he writes to the grasshopper, who takes a huge pile of gardening equipment to the middle of the ocean and creates a pleasure garden on the whale’s back, full of hollyhocks, honeysuckle, and apple trees and “a shed with a little window with cobwebs and a door that sticks”.

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