Bibi Dumon Tak and Annemarie van Haeringen

Leave a Message in the Sand

In the year when Bibi Dumon Tak’s non-fiction oeuvre won the Netherlands’ top prize for children’s literature, she also made her debut as a poet. That step is not as big as it might seem. The portraits of unusual animals in her non-fiction were practically poetry already, as a result of her unique way of observing the world.

Dumon Tak’s first poetry collection is also based on her distinctive combination of originality, linguistic brilliance, humour and her love of animals. The giraffe is ‘a walking lookout tower in pyjamas made of blocks of wood’, the warthog is a ‘wandering pool of mud’ and the African bongo has ‘little lamps for cheeks’.

Illustrator Annemarie van Haeringen draws them realistically, but also with a poetic twist. In her poetry, Dumon Tak presents the twenty-two animal portraits in different forms: there is a WhatsApp conversation between the wild boar and her ‘sister’, the pig, and there is a sports commentary about gnus crossing the Serengeti. There is also a singles ad from the wild camel, which is on the brink of extinction. This reflects the constant serious undertone of human interference in the animal world, which makes this collection layered, confrontational and touching.

While more structured poems continue to define Dutch children’s poetry, this collection is completely free and exuberantly lyrical.

NRC Handelsblad

It’s a successful experiment, this non-fiction poetry, particularly in combination with the stunning illustrations.


The Wild Camel

Male camel, single, wild,
seeks fem. for friendsh. and love. 6 y/o
Don’t object to a child.
I’m faithful and strong.
Can take the heat (up to fifty above)
and extr. cold (forty below).
From the Gobi Desert (Mong.)
If you’re from Lop Nur (China), that’s fine.
Harems are welcome too.
No tame camels please,
(too human for me).
Will you (pl. or sing.) be mine?
Just drop me a line in the sand.
There’s only a thousand of us left,
it’s quiet and lonely here, and
my ♥’s been on fire for too long.

Poem: Bibi Dumon Tak
Translation: Vivien D. Glass

Bibi Dumon Tak

Bibi Dumon Tak (b. 1964) is the first non-fiction writer for children to have won the Theo Thijssen Prize for her oeuvre. With her literary imagination, she has expanded the genre in all directions, coming up with ideas such as ‘non-fiction poetry’ (Laat een boodschap achter in het zand). In…

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Laat een boodschap achter in het zand (2018). Fiction, 53 pages.


Annemarie van Haeringen

Age: 8+

Sample translation

English (PDF document)



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