Keizer and the Shell-Singer
There are very few writers who can create stories for young readers that add up to more than an accumulation of everyday events. Koos Meinderts is one of those writers. In his Keizer trilogy he tells the tale of the eight-year-old Keizer, who lives with his dad in a house by the sea.
There’s no mum around – at least, not really. Shortly after Keizer’s birth she disappeared, but she lives on as a mermaid in the stories that Keizer’s dad tells. Keizer’s dad makes hats, but first and foremost he’s a story-telling dad.
Sometimes stories and songs just pop into Keizer’s head as well and he tells them into the wind or sings them out loud on the beach. It is through these songs that he gets to know the shellsinger in the third book Keizer en de schelpenzanger (Keizer and the Shell-Singer), an eccentric character who lives in a little hut on the beach and calls himself the ‘no-worries man’. He sings cheerful songs, but Keizer discovers that there’s great sorrow hiding behind that cheerfulness: ‘His cheerfulness was just a lid on his sadness.’ The books about Keizer can be read as a tribute to the imagination.
Every person is a story, says Keizer’s dad, and the dreamy Keizer is only too happy to believe this. After all, stories sometimes make reality less harsh and having a mermaid-mum is better than knowing that your mother has drowned or maybe just walked out of your life.
Meinderts describes the trials and tribulations of the eight-year-old wonderfully, in a simple, poetic style. Keizer’s ponderings are sometimes philosophical, sometimes funny, but they always remain close to the world of the child.
Illustrator Annette Fienieg, Meindert’s wife, gave a face to Keizer and his father – they’re nice faces, but never too sweet, just like the stories themselves.