Leave a Message in the Sand
In the year when Bibi Dumon Tak’s non-fiction oeuvre won the Netherlands’ top prize for children’s literature, she also made her debut as a poet. That step is not as big as it might seem. The portraits of unusual animals in her non-fiction were practically poetry already, as a result of her unique way of observing the world.
Dumon Tak’s first poetry collection is also based on her distinctive combination of originality, linguistic brilliance, humour and her love of animals. The giraffe is ‘a walking lookout tower in pyjamas made of blocks of wood’, the warthog is a ‘wandering pool of mud’ and the African bongo has ‘little lamps for cheeks’.
Illustrator Annemarie van Haeringen draws them realistically, but also with a poetic twist. In her poetry, Dumon Tak presents the twenty-two animal portraits in different forms: there is a WhatsApp conversation between the wild boar and her ‘sister’, the pig, and there is a sports commentary about gnus crossing the Serengeti. There is also a singles ad from the wild camel, which is on the brink of extinction. This reflects the constant serious undertone of human interference in the animal world, which makes this collection layered, confrontational and touching.