Poet and children’s writer Toon Tellegen is best known for his poetic animal stories about the squirrel, the ant, the mole and the elephant. The imaginary biotope of Tellegen’s forest is a perfect reflection of the world in all its absurdity, impossible to map because there are no clear connecting routes. The creatures who live there make naive and pointless attempts to understand their peculiar world, but rarely receive any clear answers to their important questions, many of which have a philosophical slant. Morgen was het feest (Tomorrow’s Party), is once again packed with layers of meaning, inventiveness, wistfulness, questions, puns and plays on words.
However, in terms of structure, Tellegen’s latest book is different than his previous offerings. He divides Morgen was het feest into four seasons and cleverly weaves the twenty-eight animal stories together, making this book an excellent introduction to Tellegen for younger readers.
First comes winter, with a full-page wintery picture by the highly regarded Flemish illustrator Ingrid Godon. Snowflakes come tumbling down from a pink winter sky, covering the gnarled branches of a brown tree that has a half-frozen squirrel staring out from a hole in the trunk.
The starving squirrel makes ‘heavy weather’ of chasing the winter away, until the swallows herald in the spring. When Squirrel asks why they have chosen that precise moment to appear in the sky, their answer is: ‘It all happens naturally. After winter, the spring follows naturally.’ And so, in his original and captivating style, Tellegen neatly introduces the inevitable circular and linear movement of time, describing the seasons in all of their colourful variety and showing how they influence the animals and their behaviour.