Jaap Hits Out

The barrage of aggressive exclamations this picture book opens with – ‘Biff!’, ‘Bam!’, ‘Wham!’, ‘Thwack!’, ‘Smack!’ – appears to be appealing to toddlers’ liking for noise and violence. The aggressiveness, however, ebbs away entirely in the following passage: ‘The blows rain thick and fast. The walls hit back – but only gently’.

Children's books
Edward van de Vendel

Only the reason why Jaap is angry is not explained. Van de Vendel prefers to steal into the hand and foot that are perpetrating the mischief or into the objects that are the victims of Jaap’s fury. Even more important is the progress of Jaap’s anger and his attempts to restore some degree of harmony.

Van de Vendel’s expressive use of language, combined with Jan Jutte’s poignant, but never too heavy illustrations make Jaap a convincing and amiable toddler. All the more so when the object of his fury, an uncle whom his mother has called ‘dear’, turns out to be a real rotter. When, on the last page, the uncle gets his just deserts, it is a relief for all injured children’s souls.

The language and illustrations have the same rhythm and are forged from great solidarity with the experiences and feelings of a child as yet unable to put everything into words.

'Jaap Hits Out' is a wonderful poem, with which Van de Vendel reconfirms what he had already proved in his earlier publications: that he is a thoroughbred poet.

De Volkskrant
Edward van de Vendel
Edward van de Vendel (b. 1964) trained to be a teacher before becoming a writer. He has won several Zilveren Griffel awards, the Woutertje Pieterse Prize and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis.
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