Little Sophie and Lanky Flop
What Life has to Offer
Kleine Sofie en Lange Wapper is about a little girl who is terminally ill. Sophie experiences a thrilling adventure in her feverish dreams when her dolls and stuffed toys come to life at night. The tomcat, Terror, has written a play in the style of the Commedia dell’Arte about What Life Has to Offer. Teddy, Sophie and her cuddly friend, Lanky Flop, take part in the play in Sophie’s cardboard toy theatre. Terror also takes a role and directs the play. Sophie travels from her room into another world, a harsh world, in which, in the space of one night, she becomes acquainted with life, complete with poverty and wealth, injustice, lies and hypocrisy.
Sophie tumbles from one adventure to another: from the boggy marshland to the year market, from the ‘Home for Unfortunate Children’ to Teddy’s luxurious villa, from the King’s palace to a prison cell, finally ending up in a raging storm at sea. Pelgrom describes all this with great imagery, at a high tempo and with sensitivity and precision. At the end, Sophie whispers, laughing: ‘What Life Has to Offer! That’s what I wanted to know. So much! So much!’ Then the play is ended and Sophie dies contentedly. The family and neighbours pay their last respects and, the next morning, Sophie is travelling with her friends in a beautiful deep blue car through green hills and blue skies. ‘An endless journey had begun’.
The book has justifiably been highly praised as a literary masterpiece and a rich, comforting children’s book about dying; When it was first published, in 1984, however, it was the subject of some controversy, due to its stratified, multi-interpretable text, full of symbolism and references to literature and theatre and because, at the time, death was still rather a taboo in children’s books. It soon became clear, however, that this was an undeniably magisterial children’s novel, a modern classic of substance.
Lieke van Duin