A boy who sees his dad kissing his teacher. A girl who finally gets the big (half-)brother she’s wanted for so long. Stepmothers who actually turn out to be okay. This poetry collection by Bette Westera and Sylvia Weve is about love, but about love that has failed, run aground or ended in separation. In these rhythmic verses, no subject remains undiscussed.
Sadness, infatuation, cheating, new family structures — Westera writes with a light touch and often with humour, as in the poem about the goldfish dividing their time between him and her after a break-up. But we also find ourselves confronted with painful situations, for example, when a child speaks up who suddenly has to deal with two homes and extra parents. Would it have turned out differently if he had been nicer? If he had never stood on the chairs with his dirty shoes? That particular poem is called ‘Nonsense’, and Weve has blasted a huge pink cross through it — one of the two fluorescent colours that have been added to the printed palette. The graphic work by Bockting Design also stands out in other respects. The paper is folded to make each page a kind of loop, so the words and pictures can flow from spread to spread. This gives Weve ample opportunity to let loose with her expressive, flamboyant illustrations. Like the mother’s hand reaching out for her daughter on the next spread in a poem about a girl who can’t believe her parents were ever a couple. ‘They have nothing, absolutely nothing, / in common / except for / me.’
The publishing house Gottmer has taken a daring approach by publishing poetry with such a strong focus on the design element. And it works — the poetry collections of Westera and Weve have the ‘wow factor’ and have found their way to a wide audience. Sometimes the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.
Winner of the 2019 Woutertje Pieterse Prijs (an annual Dutch literary award for the best children's book of the preceding year).