What a lovely, no... What an amazingly wonderful Children’s Book Festival we all had this year! I didn’t know what to expect from the theme Grandmas and Grandpas - Forever Young . I must say, I’m in total awe :D Every school I’ve visited, the library, the book stores... All my lovely colleagues from the Dutch Caribbean Islands, Suriname, The Netherlands, who participated this year and whom I’ve grown to care for deeply. Our Aruban kids who have so many wonderful stories they’ve inherited from their elders. Ahhhhh, the stories we’ve all shared, our treasures, I will cherish these moments forever.
Above: Jeroen and me at Bruna Bookstore books signing session
Writing and sharing the children’s book Overal Opa’s en Oma’s (Grampies and Grannies Everywhere) has been such an enriching journey for me. I got a unique opportunity to co-create stories, fairytales, poems together with my dedicated publisher Jeroen Hoogerwerf and the incredibly talented Dutch artist Mariëlle van de Beek. We each infused so much love and (childhood) inspiration into this publication, dedicated to our ancestors. The positive reviews and young readers' enthusiasm were cherry, whipped cream and sprinkles on top of this celebration.
But as we celebrate life, our grandmothers and grandfathers, our families who love and support us and are the reason we’re part of this world in the first place, we also realize our inevitable fate: mortality and the uncertainties on our path. In the midst of the Children’s Book Week in Aruba, my fellow book promoter Jeroen, lost his beloved mother and number one fan, Mrs. Anja Hoogerwerf-Heessels.
Apart from this unexpected and tragic event, - losing a loved one when you’re halfway around the world - lies the irony of our existence. The other book Jeroen’s publishing house presented during Aruba’s Children’s Book Festival, was the 2016 Festival Gift, Superoma in Coma (Supergranny in a Coma). Unlike the fictional grandmother in the story, Jeroen’s mom didn’t recover from her coma. She passed away on the very morning Jeroen was preparing to travel back to The Netherlands. Before leaving the island, Jeroen gathered all the courage he could muster and shared love and loss with us - his fellow authors, illustrators, storytellers, festival organizers - by reciting the following poem:
The week of beautifully
Of beginning beautifully with the opening,
Of beautifully the preparations,
Of beautiful books and people
The week of laughing
With the children at the schools
With children in the library
With everyone around us
The week of the tear
With the stories and memories, All Souls' Day,
With grandma who really was in a coma,
From my son Tobias far away ...
I will never forget this week,
Remember with beautifully, a laugh and a tear.