This powerful fable about the madness and absurdities of war is written by a multi award-winning Dutch children’s book author. It tells the tale of Tortot, a field chef cooking wonderful food for whichever army is currently winning the interminable Great Wars between unspecified European empires. Tortot prides himself on being detached and unemotional and on always being able to switch sides at just the right moment. But one day Tortot finds a surprise hidden in a barrel of gherkins, a boy soldier who has lost his brothers and his legs in battle. Tortot nicknames the boy Half-George and, gradually, his cold heart begins to thaw as affection grows and memories of his own childhood return, leading him to use his wit and culinary skill to bring the never-ending war to a close.
This is an unusual book, difficult to categorise and place in any particular age range. It is at once grim and moving, blackly humorous and harshly violent, a timeless fable and a sharp skewering of the absurdity and vanity of power struggles. It should appeal to thoughtful readers from older juniors, through teens to adults. It will particularly appeal to those readers who love to pore over minutely detailed illustrations as the production of the book is stunning, from its distinctive oblong shape to the complex, intricate illustrations and diagrams that surround and expand the text. The sheer achievement of Dutch illustrator Ludwig Volbeda, here illustrating his first children’s book, is remarkable and the combination of witty, bleak, fantastical and meandering text with world-creating illustrations should fascinate readers and compel thought and attention.