Martha Heesen and Wim Hofman
Of hoe je een meisje verovert met 23 uitvindingen en 1 muis
How to Win Over a Girl with 23 Inventions and 1 Mouse
‘My name’s Carl. I’m ten years old, and I’m an inventor. (I invent things for everyone I know.)’ These tantalising words are the opening sentences of Martha Heesen’s Watson of Hoe je een meisje verovert met 23 uitvindingen en 1 muis (Watson, or How to Win Over a Girl with 23 Inventions and 1 Mouse): a fascinating, light-hearted and psychologically believable story about friendship, inventions, bothersome mice and pigheaded girls.
Carl is a real ‘boy’s boy’. He’s tough, but has a warm heart hidden away. He chooses his words well and speaks with absolute honesty and unintentional humour as he explains how his friendship with Veerke has gone hopelessly off course. Veerke is his favourite girl in the neighbourhood and she has enchanting ‘greeny blue eyes like lakes’.
Carl tells his story through words and pictures: ‘When I think things,’ says Carl, ‘I always have to draw.’ These illustrations are by none other than Wim Hofman, an illustrator who understands Carl perfectly: his many illustrations of Carl’s contraptions, drawn in the style of Heath Robinson or Rube Goldberg, are just as imaginative, lively, funny and technologically inspired as their young designer.
Veerke is ‘really, really, really angry’ with Carl. His well-meaning attempt to solve a problem for her granddad, a widower, by clearing his house of a mice infestation, has gone completely wrong. Carl’s mouse trap took the form of a ‘mouse pipe’ that wound its way around the whole house, guiding the rodents outside without harming them. The trap was both ingenious and ‘mouse-friendly’ and Granddad had given it his seal of approval, but Carl was not able to prevent it from causing the death of Veerke’s pet mouse Watson.
The animal-mad Veerke is furious. ‘She just looks past me. She looks away from me. She even looks straight through me,’ says Carl. So, even though he really doesn’t like ‘all that romantic girly nonsense’, he embarks upon a ‘charm offensive’. For twentythree days in a row, he dreams up new inventions for Veerke. But it’s no good. The only ‘strategy of conquest’ that might stand a chance involves getting a new mouse.
But before that can happen Carl has to get over his hidden fear of mice and his toughguy attitude – ‘grabbing hold of animals is more of a girl’s kind of thing,’ he says.
Heesen portrays Carl’s inner development with great finesse. She presents a colourful depiction of the trials and tribulations of Carl, Veerke and her granddad, in a light-hearted style and without too much explanation. So, little by little, the reader gains perfect insight into the workings of Carl’s innermost feelings and overwhelming sadness.
By Mirjam Noorduijn