The Big Question:
book review by Trevor Agnew
The Big Question Leen van den Berg, ill. Kaatje Vermeire (2014) Book Island, 32pages, hardback, NZ$29.99 ISBN 978 0941098 4 2
This is a big picture book about a big question. At the annual meeting of “everyone and everything,” a bashful elephant asks “How do you know you love someone?”
Kaatje Vermeire’s elaborate and imaginative double-page illustrations perform the remarkable feat of showing a gathering attended by sun, snowflakes, insects, animals and people. Their views are equally diverse. “When my sweetheart’s lying next to me, I feel nice and warm,” offers a stone. A mouse, the sea, an apple tree and even a snowflake praise all aspects of loving and being loved. “We can be silent together for a thousand years,” say the stars. The elephant is clearly excited about what she has learned about the importance of the various types of love.
Unfortunately the meeting is chaired by an ambitious but unobservant ant, so while the elephant clearly benefits from hearing everyone’s opinions on love, the ant misses the point. The story concludes with the ant – clearly identified as a workaholic - wondering why she feels so lonely.
Translated by David Colmer from the original Flemish, The Big Question is a handsomely-presented fable for all ages.
Note: This book review was first published in Your Weekend magazine (Fairfax NZ) on 21 Feb 2015.
Full publishing details:The Big Question Leen van den Berg, ill. Kaatje Vermeire (2014) Book Island, 32pp, hb, NZ$29.99
ISBN 978 0941098 4 2