Today I’m Going to Talk About the Anaconda

Bibi Dumon Tak can do magic with words. Whether it’s facts, portraits or poetry, her language sparkles and shines. She uses that language mainly to write about the animal kingdom, tirelessly tweaking different genres to highlight animals’ unique characters.

Original title
Vandaag houd ik mijn spreekbeurt over de anaconda
Author
Bibi Dumon Tak

In this book, she has once again come up with an extremely original form: animals who are giving a talk at school about other animals. Having previously given cows a voice of their own in Het koeienparadijs, this school-presentation format takes her to the next level. In a classroom where snow leopard, barn owl, fox, goose, Gila monster, cassowary and earthworm sit cosily together, this gang of creatures behaves like a bouncy bunch of modern kids: they talk over each other, interrupt the animal who is presenting and are very focused on themselves. This leads to humorous presentations, with some animals clearly copying directly from Wikipedia, while the fox talks mainly about the goose’s meat, and the nervous hermit crab can barely manage to say a word. Meanwhile, the reader learns a lot, as Dumon Tak has ingeniously packed plenty of information into the animals’ squabbling and chatter.

Humans are mentioned only indirectly and they usually come off badly. For example, the wild donkey scoffs at a human’s disrespectful presentation about zebras.

The illustrations are by the three-time Gouden Penseel winner Annemarie van Haeringen and are classic Van Haeringen. Clear lines, clean backgrounds, expressive animal faces. The shoebill stork’s bright eyes look invitingly at the reader along its huge beak. The glorious koala, on the other hand, is a distinguished little bear with a serious expression.

Bibi Dumon Tak gets the zebra to talk about black-and-white animals and the howler monkey to talk about the unicorn in this successful series of talks by animals about animals.

Trouw
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.
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