‘Guus is on TV!’ yelled Mevrouw T. She watches the Dutch language news on the multicultural SBS channel each morning at 8.04 a.m. Indeed, there was Guus Kuijer, shyly rising to his feet to acknowledge the announcement of the winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for children’s literature.
I couldn’t be more delighted if I’d won it myself.
One of the first books I managed to read in Dutch was Guus Kuijer’s Op je kop in de prullenbak (‘On your head in the wastepaper basket’). His books about Madelief were favourites in our family in the 1970s. The compelling stories and clear, elegant language were perfect for a young Australian beginning to learn Dutch.
It was exciting to be commissioned to write a stage adaptation of The Book of Everything, though it was with great trepidation that I sent my draft script off to publishers Querido for his approval. I received a one line response from Mr Kuijer, in Dutch, to the effect of ‘Let Mr Tulloch continue on his merry way.’ Phew!
Mevrouw T and I have since got to know the Kuijers and we’ve continued to read Guus’ books. He’s moved away from children’s literature recently, writing entertaining, thought-provoking and challenging books about history, religion and philosophy. He’s also doing his best to turn the 140-character tweet into an art form – usually in Dutch, unfortunately for 99% of the world’s Twitter followers.
I admire him enormously, find his writing inspirational and much enjoy his company.
So you can imagine that I will be thoroughly nervous sitting in the New Victory Theater in New York next month as Guus Kuijer sees our production on stage for the first time.
He, on the other hand, is entitled to be perfectly relaxed. He can start getting nervous as the Astrid Lindgren* award ceremony in Stockholm approaches in May.
*Astrid Lindgren was a Swedish author, the creator of Pippi Longstocking.