Tree book Valerie Trouet wins Jan Wolkers Prize


The Jan Wolkers Prize 2020, the prize for the best nature book, has been won by What trees tell us by the Flemish author Valerie Trouet. The prize was awarded in radio program Early birds.

In What trees tell us, published by publisher Lannoo, focuses on growth rings of trees, much of which can be read about history and climate change. Author Valerie Trouet will receive a cash prize of 5,000 euros and a drawing by Siegfried Woldhek.

Drawing of winner Valerie Trouet (with annual rings of trees) by Siegfried Woldhek. Photo Siegfried Woldhek

Jury chairman Jean-Pierre Geelen said in radio program Early birds about the winner: “Trouet is a skilful author who takes the reader by the hand like an enthusiastic guide and learns to see with new eyes.” With her research we can not only “flawlessly distinguish a real Rembrandt or a Stradivarius violin from a false one, we can even see the fall of the Roman Empire in growth rings of trees. Trouet knows how to serve this knowledge tasty, by mixing facts with rich anecdotes and a touch of personal experiences. An example for any scientist who dares to write a book for a wide audience. ”

Also read: an earlier interview with Valerie Trouet


About 125 books were entered this year for the Jan Wolkers Prize, books „that were all about nature in one way or another; from children’s book and field guide to novel and poetry collection ”, says Geelen. The average quality of the entries had increased, the jury noted.

One of the four other nominees for the Jan Wolkers Prize 2020 was Urban flora of the Low Countries by Ton Denters. That book already got 5 balls in before NRC. The jury now: “In a perfectly and cleverly designed guide Denters describes the wealth of city plants, among other things on the basis of walks through Dutch and Flemish cities, where he points out special wall plants and other beautiful things accurately to the coordinate.

Also What sings there by Dick de Vos (‘knows how to catch 52 kinds of songbirds in terms that are both concise and illuminating’), Messages from the valley by Stefan Brijs (“Brijs knows how to transport you with lyrical descriptions about his valley”) and Caspar Runs van Caspar Janssen (“gives a visual account of his walk through the Netherlands, which he made for de Volkskrant. No meandering pieces for the tourist section, but an extremely journalistic search for the changed landscape of today ”) had a chance of winning the prize.

Also read this interview with Caspar Janssen: ‘Let the landscape itself guide’

Previous winners

Last year the prize went to a novel: Foon from Marente de Moor, who already got 4 balls in before NRC). Previous winners are Menno Schilthuizen with Darwin in the city, Dik van der Meulen with wolf book The children of the night, Albert Beintema met The godwit, Louis Schoonhoven and others with Not without each other – flowers and insects, Remco Daalder with The common swift and Simon van der Geest with children’s book Spinder. In addition, the first Jan Wolkers Oeuvre Prize was awarded to Koos van Zomeren in 2017.

The jury for the Jan Wolkers Prize this year consisted of Karina Wolkers, Allard Stapel (World Wildlife Fund), Daniel Gulpers (Early birds) and Jean-Pierre Geelen (de Volkskrant).

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