BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Surprise by Mies van Hout

SurpriseA baker’s dozen of perfect active verbs, measured out sparingly just one at the time, culminating in a final two words together. Twelve dazzlingly expressive illustrations of different birds in various stages of anticipation (the adults) and growth (the chicks) on stark black backgrounds that make the glowing hues that much more arresting. This is Dutch artist Mies van Hout‘s spectacular Surprise, filled with wonder and joy, hope and poignancy, encapsulating the miraculous parallel journeys of parenthood and childhood both. Pared down as it seems with so little text, Surprise is, more accurately, an example of essential quantity creating exquisite quality.

From “yearning” for a child to “marveling” at his/her arrival, to “cherishing” the child and “listening” as s/he learns to communicate, to “encouraging” him/her to explore and grow, to inevitably “letting go,” parenthood morphs quickly. Meanwhile the children arrive and depart with such alacrity, that “enjoying” serves as both observation and warning to be with them while you still can.

Parents, take note: be Kleenex-ready. That little orange-and-red chickie-babe all grown who takes a fleeting second to turn around before flying off with a flock of friends is the one you hope your own growing babies emulate. The watching parent’s wide-eyed surprise mixed with loving pride and an about-to-fail attempt not to cry, the belly full of worry and wonder both – surely, that’s the portrait of every parent …

Tidbit: For all of you out there about to launch a precious chickie-babe out into the world – class of 2018, anyone? – make sure to tuck Surprise in their luggage!

Readers: Children

Published: 2013, 2014 (United States)


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