Glass Globe 2009 (NL)
Jenny Smelik IBBY Prize 2009 (NL)
Nominated for the Golden Frame 2009 (NL)
Book of the Month September 2012 (DE)
Nominated for the Buxtehuder Bulle 2012 (DE)
Nominated for the Premi de Literatura Protagoniste Jove 2012/2013 (SP/CAT)
Shortlisted for the Children’s Jury Prize 2010 (Flanders)
The Boy Who Found Happiness is a spectacular book for adolescent readers, in which Edward van de Vendel relates the eventful life of Afghan refugee Hamayun, a seventeen-year-old whose character is based on that of co-author Anoush Elman. Together with his family, Anoush fled from the Taliban, ending up in the Netherlands more or less by chance, after an incredible journey.
The farewell from Hamayun’s grandmother and baby brother is painful – they stay behind in Afghanistan to allow the others to flee by the fastest route. The road movie section of the book, covering Hamayun’s months of flight, is absolutely gripping. And Hamayun’s uprooted feeling is deeply tragic – he describes this as ‘the sense that everyone else in the whole world has a house and work and friends […]. And that we have been cut off from that world.’
Although the story is intense, the tone remains light. This lightness of tone, together with the wide variety of realistic characters and Hamayun’s fascinating coming-of-age story, combine to make The Boy Who Found Happiness a remarkable book with universal relevance.
Misjka, based on the story of Anoush Elman’s little sister, has recently been published by Querido, with beautiful illustrations by Annet Schaap.