Joukje Akveld (b. 1974) studied Dutch and has worked for various publishing houses. As a journalist, she writes about children’s books and theatre for newspapers and magazines, while also writing her own books.
For her English website see: https://en.joukjeakveld.com
What Ollie Saw
Rights sold to: Germany, Denmark, Taiwan, The United States
Benny just knows he doesn’t need to wear glasses. His teacher, sister, mom and dad simply don’t agree. Still Benny prefers his zany view of the world to a boring life seen through a pair of spectacles.
‘Posthuma’s ink-and-wash drawings, putting off strong William Steig vibes (…) Posthuma’s subversive drawings are full of snarky mirth: Ollie’s sister’s “grizzling” is all the funnier for being spoken by a pig in a dainty dress and pearls. In a fine translation by Nagelkerke, Akveld champions staying true to oneself, no matter what others indicate those letters on the eye chart are.’
‘A superb, humorous story that celebrates individuality and nonconformity.’
School Library Journal
Get On Your Bike
Rights sold to: The United States, France, Colombia, Denmark
When Bobby the panda and William the dog have an argument, William says to Bobby, ‘Go on! On your bike!’ So Bobby gets onto his bike and goes for a long, breath-taking ride through the town and countryside.
At every stoplight, he heads whichever way is green at that moment and so he ends up further and further away from home. Gradually, though, he forgets about the argument and, as he becomes hungry, he starts to wonder how William is doing. Akveld creates a small and wonderfully familiar tale out of something as ordinary as a quarrel, while Hopman’s illustrations are among his best work, as he turns the bike ride into something large and expansive, cheerfully incorporating references to the work of his favourite artists: David Hockney, Rembrandt, Ed van der Elsken and many others.
‘This charming depiction of dealing with anger via exercise cleverly offers a participatory feature.’
‘A warm story about a breath-taking bike ride.’
‘A delightfully detailed picture book with a story that begins with an argument but all ends well.’
Rights sold to: Japan
There goes Shoebill.
Wading through the water on his long stilts.
What kind of strange bird is that? His head seems as big as a whale’s, and his beak looks more like a shoe. The other birds mock him and say there’s nothing elegant about Shoebill. They prefer to look at themselves and to praise their own beauty.
Poor Shoebill! Just imagine people saying such mean things about you. Or could it be that the other birds have got the wrong idea about him?
A picture book about being mean and conceited – but mostly about the incredibly handsome shoe-billed stork!
Illustrated by famous South African artist Piet Grobler.
‘A future favourite for pre-schoolers.’
Volkskrant reviewer Pjotr van Lenteren
‘A wonderful picture book about a very special bird.’
‘Grobler and Akveld are a good match – they know exactly what a good read-aloud book needs.’
Susan Venings, waanenwijs.nl
An Ape in the Toilet – a Zoo in Wartime
Rights sold to: China
The amazing wartime story of Blijdorp Zoo
Thanks to Anne Frank and her diary, the story of the occupation of the Netherlands in World War II is known all over the world. Anyone who wants to find out more about the subject can read books by hundreds of authors. However, many of those accounts are missing something essential: how it really feels to find yourself, from one day to the next, living in a world of danger and uncertainty.
An Ape in the Toilet by author and journalist Joukje Akveld, however, succeeds in capturing this aspect – and in a remarkable way. It’s all because of the book’s unusual perspective: we see the bombardment of Rotterdam through the eyes of not humans, but animals. Akveld has delved into archives and carried out interviews to chronicle the amazing wartime history of Blijdorp Zoo and its inhabitants. These animals were very unlucky, as their enclosures were right next door to Rotterdam’s main railway station.
The German bombers were aiming to knock out the railway lines, but ended up killing camels and tigers too. A sad and poignant detail here is that the zoo was already moving to a new location outside the city centre, because of a lack of space. The new zoo was nowhere near ready though, so the apes briefly had to be housed in the toilets of a nearby bar after the bombing.
Akveld does not begin with the war, but lovingly portrays the lives of the animals from beginning to end. We hear so much about the back story of Kali the rhinoceros, Hans and Grietje the bears, and the group of chimpanzees that they almost feel like family and we start to worry about them. When the bombs finally fall, halfway through the book, it hits the reader hard. Fortunately, Blijdorp also had some famous survivors. The last of them, the slender-snouted crocodile Hakuna, died just three weeks before this book went to the printer’s. It’s almost as if it was meant to be.
Whose … Is That?
Rights sold to: China, Chili, Mexico, Iran
- Preschool series based on the question: who or what belongs here?
- The drawings for each part are created by a different well-known Ducht illustrator: Thé Tjong-Khing, Annemarie van Haeringen, Philip Hopman, Martijn van der Linden, Charlotte Dematons
Eight seemingly simple brainteasers: but thanks to the clever concept and splendid interplay of images, this series is much more than a collection of learning books. The drawings in each succeeding book are from the hand of a different famous Dutch illustrator, so very young readers are also introduced to a wide array of work.
A Small History of Humankind through the Eyes of Animals
Rights sold to: Kazakhstan, China
A richly illustrated and mind-expanding history of humankind as seen from the perspective of animals
‘A history of humankind without animals would be an incomplete history,’ writes Joukje Akveld. ‘That’s why this book is about them. And because we humans have already told our story often enough, it is the animals themselves who are doing the talking here.’ This original premise results in twenty-nine fascinating and colourful animal testimonies in words and pictures, which take the reader from the Botswana of 200,000 years ago to present-day South Africa.
Akveld has not invented anything here and supports every chapter with scientific information about the relationship between humans and animals. For example, you’ll read about ‘the animal as an object of study’ in ancient Greece (the peacock), ‘as a goldmine’ when whaling came along, and as ‘a rarity’, now that a sixth mass extinction is looming (the northern white rhinoceros).
The animal perspective also results in imaginative and sometimes amusing monologues and dialogues in which Akveld has cleverly given each animal its own appropriate narrative voice. For example, Fortune, the pug who belonged to Napoleon’s first wife, sounds rather prim when he talks about how ‘furieux’ he was when ‘madame’ allowed another man besides him into their bed. While the lion waiting beneath Rome’s Colosseum until he can hunt his prey feels thoroughly tormented and expresses himself in snappy sentences: ‘The crowd roars wildly. I roar too. For my lionesses. For my cubs. For the yellow grass that has gone for good. With one leap, I am with him. […] I hit, I pull, I tear. And I kill.’
All these voices, from the South African quagga to Botswana’s dikdik, resound powerfully in Fila’s beautifully evocative illustrations. Using a variety of colours and materials, she gives each account a distinctive atmosphere. The mountain gorilla, for example: his dejected appearance and the black scribbled pages look ominous, reinforcing the deep tragedy of the Rwandan genocide that killed a million Tutsis in 1994.
‘The people had gone insane,’ says the gorilla.
Yes, humans do not come out of this well. However, that does not diminish the huge pleasure of reading the text and looking at the pictures in this truly impressive book.
‘…a sparkling and impressively illustrated book… the animal perspective results in fantastic and imaginative monologues and dialogues… All those voices resonate powerfully in Fila’s evocative pictures.’
‘Anyone who has looked in this mirror will no longer see the same world.’
‘When an inspired and erudite author meets an illustrator of the same calibre, something beautiful is created: a book that transcends age categories, a true gift for reading alone and for reading aloud.’
Jury report Woutertje Pieterse Prize 2023