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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Book of Everything (The)
by Guus Kuijer
Age Range: 9-11
Startlingly original, The Book of Everything is a novel that contains both humour and pathos in equal measure. Set in 1951 in the Netherlands nine-year-old Thomas lives with his mother, sister and overbearing, strict puritanical father who rules the house with an iron will and his fists insisting that the family live their lives according to the Bible. Fear pervades the whole household but somehow Thomas develops his own unique way of dealing with it – he writes everything down in ‘The Book of Everything’. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he replies, ‘to be happy’. In discovering an escape route in his mind, he begins to see incredible things that no one else notices.
Thomas writes in his note book of his love for his sister’s 16-year-old friend, Eliza –with her leather leg and maimed hand – who he thinks is the most beautiful girl in the world as he is able to see beyond Eliza’s disability. Thomas’ neighbour, the incredible Mrs Van Amersfoot recognises a kindred spirit and she subtly helps him to become strong. His unique powers of imagination are the best weapon he has against the cruelty of his father and as he learns not to be afraid, he realises that he can make things change.
This heart-warming book sensitively translated by John Nieuwenhuizen is a real literary gem by Guus Kuijer who is one of Holland’s most celebrated children’s writers. Despite the fact that the narration is by a nine-year-old boy, this is a book that can be enjoyed by those of any age.