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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)
Bob and Jilly
by Annie M. G. Schmidt
Age Range: 6-8
This is the first book in the ‘Bob and Jilly’ series by Dutch author Annie M. G. Schmidt. Bob and Jilly live next door to each other. They’ve become good friends and they enjoy all sorts of fun and adventures together. Sometimes they are also joined in their explorations by Mary-Jane (Jilly’s doll) and teddy bear.
Bob and Jilly is a collection of short stories about two lively five-year-olds. The chapters are not tied in to each other in a sequence or chronological order so are ideal for reading aloud, bedtime reading and for sharing.
Schmidt (1911-1995) is considered the mother of children’s literature in the Netherlands. She had a thorough appreciation of childhood psychology, understanding the ways in which children behaved, played and constructed their own imaginary world. In this respect Schmidt was a master creator of fictional characters and Bob and Jilly are the quintessential representation of childhood demonstrated in their daily routines and actions. Another appeal of these stories is there are no gender stereotypes as both children participate in the same games.
Bob and Jilly (known in Holland as Jip en Janneke) are among the best-known children's characters in the Netherlands. A total of eight book collections were published between 1953 and 1960 and illustrated by Fiep Westendorp. Some of the story lines were based on real adventures involving Schmidt's son Flip and the girl next door.
In an era when children are constantly exposed to IT devises and gadgets, it is refreshing to find stories like these where characters have to think and invent their own games to entertain themselves and use the most rudimentary objects as aid to develop their imagination.
Lance Salway is a well-known children’s literature critic, historian, children’s author and essayist and his translation has captured the spirit of the original text. There are black and white illustrations throughout by Carolyn Dinan that, although charming, are not as impressive as the ones produced for the original Dutch editions by Westendorp. It has been well documented that the collaboration between Schmidt and Westendorp was what made the stories so successful and appealing. In this respect it is a shame that the UK editions of the stories have not reproduced the original artwork.
Please also see Bob and Jilly in Trouble also featured on the website.