Zestig Spiegels, or Sixty Mirrors in English, is a book by Dutch writer Harm de Jonge, written for and handed out for free during the 2014 week of the children’s book. The beautiful illustrations are by the hand of Martijn van der Linden, a talented, Dutch illustrator. 91 pages of a fantasy-filled adventures with beautiful illustrations and two very different main characters: a sweet, shy boy and a confident, exuberant girl. It’s a very short but sweet children’s story, so I’m not going to explain the entire plot. I’ll just set the scene for you by translating the blurb.
Jurre is a shy little boy who never says more than 6 words in a row. Which is not that bad, except when you need to give a presentation. He is really dreading that. But then he meets princess Sippora Von Singapoor, the girl with the blue eyes and the black braid. She teaches Jurre to see the world differently and takes him to the seven towers of the Prince’s House. There, he enters a wonderful world of carnival folk and street performers. He receives special advice for his presentation. And when Sippora also helps him with sixty mirrors, nothing can go wrong anymore.
Just to clarify for those of you who don’t know any Dutch first names, Jorre is the male character while Sippora (a made up name, even in Dutch) is the female character. I’m not going to go into the discussion of whether there is something wrong with Jorre or not. He is painfully shy, never looks people in the eye, doesn’t like to be touched and barely speaks. As far as I know, that is more than just being shy. I’ve heard people discuss that he is just painfully shy and has a fear of public speaking, but especially the fact that he doesn’t like to be touched and doesn’t look people in the eye, that means a little more to me. In any case, he is a young boy and he is dealing with his fears because his mother and teacher want him to give a presentation in class.
Besides, what mother and teacher would force an introvert, shy child to speak in front of his entire class because they feel like he doesn’t speak enough? What kind of parenting or teaching is that? Jorre is panicking and feels betrayed by the two most important women in his life. And that is when he escapes into his fantasy world, inhabited by a pretty, outspoken princess and a number of strange men and women that live in the 7 towers of the Prince’s House. All of the people they encounter together have tips and tricks for Jorre on how to give presentations and deal with his feelings about speaking in front of people.
“It’s very simple. You have to see what you want to see. That which you don’t want to see, you change into something you’re not afraid of. Afraid of spiders? Make yourself see a butterfly instead of the spider.”
Conclusion? I think it’s a cute, little story. It’s not that easily written though, so I don’t recommend it for very young children or starting readers, a developed level of reading is required to understand everything. I do think it’s a fun story to read to your children, and especially if your child is also a little introverted and shy. There are ridiculous tips in there to overcome shyness, but also some good ones. If you want to talk to your child about these feelings (or character traits, whatever you want to call them), this is a nice book to start the conversation.
Have you guys read it? Or do you know of any similar conversation-starter books to read together with young children? Be sure to let me know in the comments!