The Rules of Three
A dazzling children’s book about an old man who asks his greatgrandchildren to help him escape from his care home
Twan and his twin sister, Linde, have gone with their mother and grandmother to Iceland to fetch great-grandfather Kas. He’s been living there for years, but he can no longer look after himself. But Grampy Kas knows that he’ll be unhappy in a Dutch care home. A man likes to die the way he lived, he confides to Twan and Linde. He wants to escape, and head off into the mountains, but he’s going to need his great-grandchildren’s help.
De regels van drie (The Rules of Three) revolves around the issue of whether the twins are prepared to help, which creates a lot of simmering tension. Who knows what’s best for Grampy Kas? Grampy Kas himself, or Mum and Grandma? Who should Twan and Linde listen to? Marjolijn Hof deftly explores this dilemma, creating a dazzling children’s book, which, in spite of its serious themes (growing old, independence, death) is packed with humour. It is this same combination of drama and a light touch that made Hof ’s debut *Een kleine kans *(a winner of the Gouden Griffel, the prize for Dutch children’s book of the year) so irresistible.
Her subtle wit lies in brief remarks and sometimes has a tragicomic touch, as, for example, when the tense atmosphere in Grampy Kas’s cramped house appears to lift for a moment: “‘Ah, that’s just what we needed,’ said Grandma, ‘a little bit of cheerfulness.’ The room immediately fell silent.” That last sentence is funny and painful at the same time.
At first, Twan is seriously annoyed at having to share a bedroom with his wrinkly old Grampy with his yellow nails and his watery eye. But the old man slowly gains Twan’s trust, with his sense of humour, and later he wins Linde over, too. He tells them about his tough life as a fisherman and the children come to understand why Grampy Kas belongs in Iceland. It is touching to see how they start to care more and more about the stubborn old man. They decide to use Twan’s *Big Survival Handbook *to prepare Grampy Kas for his journey into the mountains. Just in case.