Het zakmes shows how deep children’s friendships can be. Mees and his friend Tim, both six years old, are in grade three. The day before Tim moves to Almere he shows Mees his new beautiful red pocket-knife in the schoolyard. Mees is even allowed to hold it for a moment. When the teacher, one of the strict old-fashioned kind who don’t like pocket-knives, comes close by, Mees quickly puts the knife in his pocket. Immediately the bell rings and the boys run inside. The lesson starts and they forget the pocket-knife. The next day Mees wants to give the knife back but Tim has just gone with the removals van and has not left his new address behind.
There follows a whole series of attempts by Mees to return the pocket-knife. Attempts which demand enormous amounts of inventiveness, social skills, courage and perseverance. He tries to return the knife by mail, to put an ad in the paper in the secret code he and Tim had thought up together, to travel by train to Almere… all on his lonesome, because the grown-ups mustn’t find out.
He manages to keep it secret too because his mother, a famous singer, is seldom at home and his nonconformist father is busy being his mother’s secretary. Finally he auditions for a children’s programme on TV, gets onto the show and sings a song he has made up about the pocket-knife in the hope that Tim will be watching. In this way he is re-united with his friend.
With Mees, Kuyper has depicted a lively child whose faithfulness to his friend is moving and whose inventiveness is astounding. Reading Het zakmes is pure joy.
By Lieke van Duin