Het Eiland – English title The Island – was created by the Dutch father-and-daughter duo Ronald Tolman and Marije Tolman. Ronald is a sculptor, painter and graphic artist, while Marije has studied both graphic and typographic design at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague and illustration and design at the Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland.
The book shows a polar bear descending from a large cloud and setting out on a journey of discovery. Initially he lands in a place full of puffins, but later he finds a variety of sea creatures and many exotic birds and animals. Towards the end of the story he meets a ringtail cat playing the violin on a strange scaffold-like structure, and the two quickly become friends. In the final spread they sit side-by-side to watch the stars.
The narrative gaps between each spread mean the story line is a little opaque, but the colours are deliciously intense and each page offers a dramatic new image. It’s probably most appropriate for older children, of say 8+ years, who can create their own interpretation of the bear’s journey.
Het Eiland was produced with the support of the Dutch Foundation for Literature and the Mondriaan Fund. In 2013 it was chosen as one of the Outstanding International Best Books of the Year by USBBY (The United States Board on Books for Young People). Marije and Ronald’s earlier book The Tree House also won this award in 2011.