Joke van Leeuwen


Possibilities of language and children’s logic fully exploited

One characteristic of classics is that they tell us the most ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Alice’s constant growing and shrinking, for example, teaches her that nothing is what it seems to be. And Pinocchio’s nose shows him that lying doesn’t pay. Iep! is based on a similar principle. Like Deesje and Bobbel, main characters in Van Leeuwen’s previous books, Eep is pervaded by an enormous longing for freedom, a demand for space for people as they are. Eep is a creature with little wings and little limbs that closely resemble legs. Little legs with little toes and ‘little nails on those toes and tiny little crumbles of earth under those nails on those toes on those legs.’ A little angel fallen from heaven, half bird and half human. And since Tine and Warre have wanted a child for so long, they decide to keep their foundling and look after it as best they can.

This original idea is the starting point for a philosophical and witty story about the wonders of creation, the need for selfless love and the freedom to go your own way. That can be painful for parents, because when their beloved Eep suddenly flies off to the sunny south they don’t know what’s hit them. In their search for their foster child they meet the strangest characters: a girl whose father is always busy, a saviour of mankind and a boy who can’t stop thinking about ghosts and spirits. These meetings teach Warre and Tine that people have to be where they belong. For Eep that’s the warm south, for Tine it’s the north where ‘it could be quite warm, if it wasn’t cold’, and Warre prefers to keep on peering into the distance.

No one has any difficulties with Eep’s ambiguous character. ‘In her own country Loetje had never seen anybody with wings. But she wasn’t at all surprised that they existed. She’d learnt from the TV that there were people who could turn a man into a woman or vice versa. And that they could make peaches and plums grow together into one. And maybe they could do the same thing with berries and apples too. Then you’d end up with berrles or applies or something like that.’

Joke van Leeuwen exploits fully the possibilities of language and childish logic and this makes Iep! breathtakingly beautiful, both in its events and its ideas. Not least of all because of the alternation of text and drawings. The latter continue where the words end.
Joke Linders

To be able to draw and write like this and combine these two elements into to a whole is a fantastic ability. An art that Joke van Leeuwen has completely mastered.

Mariette van Halewijn, De Standaard

A magnificent children’s book the like of which you seldom encounter. The witty and unusual plot, the unsurpassed play of words (…) the brilliant combination of seriousness, emotion and mirth makes the book an absolute masterpiece of children’s literature.

Annemie Leysen, De Morgen

A effervescent quest crammed with absurd and fascinating meetings, coincidences and observations.

Jury’s Report Golden Owl 1997

Anyone who can express so much in a story this clever and exciting, can be called the creator of a classic children’s book.

Algemeen Dagblad

Birdie grew very quickly. It seemed as though things happened to her in one week that would take an ordinary little girl a year. Even so, she stayed smaller and lighter than an ordinary little girl.

She soon started to crawl out of her basket and tried to walk. And it isn’t easy, learning how to walk. All young creatures have great difficulty with that.


But Birdie managed it right away. Whenever she was about to fall over, she fluttered her wings for a moment and stayed upright. She didn’t seem to mind rocking to and fro a bit. She soon got better at it, and began to make little jumps at the same time. And these little jumps lasted longer and longer. Soon she could flutter a good metre high, from one wall to the other.


Joke van Leeuwen

Joke van Leeuwen (b. 1952) studied history at the University of Brussels, performs in cabaret and theatre shows, writes stories and poems for children, which she illustrates herself, and writes prose and poetry for adults. She has received innumerable awards, including the prestigious Theo Thijssen…

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Iep! (1996). Children's books, 149 pages.

Age: 10+

Sample translation

English (PDF document)


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