Jonne Kramer: The Riddle of the Sea (Picadilly Press 2022; originally published under the title Het raadsel van de zee by Billy Bones in 2019)
This year, the Netherlands will be the guest of honor at the Budapest International Book Festival. Now I recommend you a novel by a Dutch writer.
Jonne Kramer is a Dutch children’s book writer. After her studies in Amsterdam, she studied linguistics and creative writing at the University of Westminster in London. In 2017, she returned to Amsterdam, where she began studying Dutch as a second language and multilingualism at the University of Amsterdam in 2020. The writer also worked as an advertising writer, singer-songwriter, and multilingual education consultant. Since 2019, she has been teaching language and storytelling classes, and since 2020 she has been teaching at a language school and working as a consultant. Already in high school, she participated in the production of the school newspaper and also worked in the school theater. She wrote her debut novel, The Riddle of the Sea, in 2019 in response to her fear of ships. The book was also published in English with the support of the Dutch Literary Foundation, translated by Laura Watkinson. I have read this edition.
As Ravian washes glasses at the local pub in Rottenherring, a small fishing village, he wonders how long a seagull lives. His father would surely know the answer, but unfortunately he is on a long journey at sea because he is a fisherman. However, he returns home every year for Ravian’s birthday. Except now… While other people think he’s lost, Ravian goes in search of him and his journey leads him to a cursed ship. Adventures await him here that he never imagined even in his wildest dreams.
I really liked the novel and it’s my favorite so far this year! I read it in one sitting, even though the plot is not fast-paced, rather it guides the reader like the waves of the sea. The characters were very well formed and I particularly liked that there were no negative roles in the story. After all, life is hard enough without villains trying to pull back the protagonists. Ravian’s best friend, Marvin, the seagull, also plays a very important role in the story. The book’s extraordinary cover and three double-page illustrations were created by Karl James Mountford, just like in the case of the original Dutch edition.
Two more novels by the author were published in Dutch so far: Dop and Waya and the Wolf*. In these books, the animal characters have important role and the illustrations for them were also made by Karl James Mountford. I hope these will be published in English soon, otherwise I am afraid will have to learn Dutch…