One day, when Warren is out bird-watching, he comes across a little bird unlike any in his bird book. This bird looked as much like a little girl as she did a bird—a little girl with wings for arms. Warren brought the creature home to his wife Tina, and they decided to keep her and raise her as their daughter. And so begins the series of curious adventures in child-rearing that make up Dutch author Joke van Leeuwen’s Eep!, a charming children’s book just translated into English.

It doesn’t take long for Warren and Tina to learn that taking care of a bird-girl is very different from raising a human child. First of all, there’s the matter of her wings, which Warren and Tina agree must be hidden, lest their neighbors gossip or try to take her away. When the girl, whom they call Beedy, starts learning to feed herself, the wings prove to be completely useless for holding spoons. And Beedy’s efforts at human speech are limited by her inability to make vowel sounds that aren’t eee. But Warren and Tina are adaptable parents, finding creative ways to get around all of these difficulties. Eventually, however, Beedy’s natural instincts lead her and her parents to a whole new set of adventures that they never planned for.

Horrendous Headaches

Eep! is a wonderfully weird story filled with random bits of whimsy, just the kind of thing I like in a children’s book. The story itself is sweet without being cloying. In fact, it turns rather dark at a couple of points. And there are lots of clever little digressions in which van Leeuwen riffs on the characters’ dreams and memories, often accompanying those riffs with line drawings that give their imaginings literal form.

For instance, when Jill watches a television program about horrible illnesses, which causes Jill to forget that she’s perfectly healthy, we see pictures of the shocking spots, awful wrinkles, and horrendous headaches on the program. Or there’s this observation:

A Pat on the Head and a Sweet Treat

Sweet treats were comforting. Of course, a pat on the head could be comforting as well. Perhaps a pat on the head with a sweet treat would be doubly comforting, but people didn’t usually combine the two.

The book is something of a fable about family and friendship the ways people have to learn to adapt to each other and to let go when the time comes. But it manages to be about these things without coming across as preachy. In fact, I think there are multiple ways to read certain aspects of the story, such as Warren and Jill’s differing attitudes toward whether Beedy is a bird or a baby. And it’s entirely possible to just enjoy it as an amusing flight of fancy, which it certainly is.

This entry was posted in Children's / YA Lit, Fiction, Speculative Fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Eep!

  1. Iris says:

    I just finished reading this, but I am saving my review for Dutch Lit Month. I did love this though, and I can’t believe I had not read it before. I knew about it, of course, there’s even a children’s movie based on the book, but it took that extra push of it being translated to English to pick it up. I’m glad to see others are now reading it too :)

    • Teresa says:

      Is she really popular in the Netherlands? I had never heard of her before, and I’m not sure what induced me to request it from Netgalley. (I’m thinking now that I might have seen you mention it on Twitter.) It is really delightful!

  2. Kathleen says:

    This just sounds charming and I love the style of the illustrations.

  3. Jenny says:

    Where’d you get that picture of me with a migraine?

    Seriously, this sounds interestingly layered for a kid’s picture book. I bet the kids and I would enjoy it.

    • Teresa says:

      I knew you’d appreciate the headache picture!

      And this isn’t so much a picture book as it is a chapter book with lots of pictures, but I do think you and the kids would have fun reading it.

  4. Pingback: Eep! by Joke van Leeuwen | Iris on Books

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