22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Jan Paul Schutten

Portrait Jan Paul Schutten
© Vera de Kok

Jan Paul Schutten was born in Vlissingen, Netherlands, in 1970. He studied communication sciences in Utrecht and then worked as a copywriter in an ad agency. In 2002, he published his first children’s book, »Ruik eens wat ik zeg« (tr. Smell what I’m saying to you). His debut was such a success that he eventually gave up his job at the ad agency and devoted himself entirely to writing. Since then, he has published over forty children’s books in the Netherlands, some of which have been translated into more than ten languages.

Schutten is known for writing informative books in which he provides answers to children’s questions on different subjects, such as animals, plants, history, science and everyday issues. In his children’s book »Het raadsel van alles wat leeft« (2013; Eng. »The Mystery of Life: How Nothing Became Everything«, 2015), the story of the earth begins not with the big bang but with a creature called »slippers animalcule«. In a descriptive and entertaining way, Schutten explores Darwinism, the differences between living and dead matter and the complex evolution from atom to human. Schutten creates a character named Jan Groß from Dietz – a guy with stinky socks colonized by all sorts of bacteria – to make scientific knowledge easier for children to understand. However, Schutten leaves it up to the reader to answer ultimate questions, such as what existed at the beginning of evolution and who is responsible for the miracle of life: »One can believe in evolution and God at the same time, of course. […] Perhaps evolution is making human beings more intelligent. And maybe our brains will develop to such an extent that they are able to determine whether there is a god or not.« Schutten goes even deeper into bodily functions in his children’s non-fiction book »Het wonder van jou en je biljoenen bewoners« (2015; tr. Our miraculous bodies and their billion inhabitants). Over the course of ten chapters, he takes a scientific yet humorous approach to the different organs in the human body and also explores human development from a cultural-historical and social perspective. The illustrations by Floor Rieder accompany the text in partly stylized, comic-like images.

Schutten has received several children’s prizes in the Netherlands and Germany, including the Gouden Griffel twice, the LUCHS Prize and the Emys Non-Fiction Prize. He was also nominated for the German Children’s Literature Award for »Evolution oder Das Rätsel von allem, was lebt«(2014; Eng. »The Mystery of Life: How Nothing Became Everything«; 2015), and was chosen among Deutschlandfunk’s »Best 7« of 2015. He lives in Amsterdam.