In the Middle of the Night
New adventures in the animal forest
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.
Middenin de nacht (In the Middle of the Night) is a collection of thirty-four new adventures in the animal forest, in which Tellegen once again proves his mastery of the art of the short story. Using minimalist language and pared-down plotting, he creates a universe in which there is room for wonder – wonder about language, or a thought, or a sunrise which looks very different when viewed upside-down. Although night-time stimulates the darker side of the mind – even festive cakes look pitch black and taste soggy and bitter – the style is as playful and light as ever. Now and again there is a glimmer of light, like the happy dream of the cricket who, in his mind’s eye, is voted the ‘most birthdayish animal’ in the world. And, as the sun chases every worry from the mind after a wakeful night, the new day brings redemption. The reader can rest assured that the squirrel will soon be awoken by an ant gently knocking on his front door.
Tellegen wrote these stories as a tribute to Mance Post, the illustrator of his animal forest who turned eighty in January 2005. She has lovingly drawn the wakeful, pensive animals, and her black cut-outs on a dark blue background highlighted with white contours, heighten the effect of midnight mystery.