It’s those illustrations—those wonderful pictures by Wolf Erlbruch.
They were already there, made for a calendar, themed: animals playing sports. Two things I love.
And then my editor asked me whether I could write poems for them.
This I’ve never done: writing to images.
But I wanted to try it (’CAUSE IT’S WOLF ERLBRUCH!) and the first poem that came out was the poem that gave the book its title:
I’ll Root for You.
I was never very good at sports. I liked to move, to feel the wind take a swing around my body, to work up a light sweat (VERY LIGHT!), but no, I wasn’t any good. And I was told I wasn’t good—by PE-teachers and classmates.
Well, I can’t blame them: they were right.
Still, I love sports. I love watching sports and I love the dynamics of sports.
For previous books, I’ve interviewed many athletes, mainly soccer players. I’ve asked them about heroism, about losing, about nerves, about expectations, secrets and coincidences. And I’ve had numerous conversations with one of my best friends, Beorn Nijenhuis, who was a speed skater, born and raised in Canada. He skated for The Netherlands at the Winter Olympics of 2006. He told me—amongst other things—about ‘not being there’ while performing, about ‘being zero’ while your body is doing the work.
“Most of all I love the dream of being something more: People courageously trying to do their utmost, but taking the risk of losing for the want of winning.”
And I also love animals. Especially BIG animals, like rhinos and hippos. Or really small ones, like tiny, tiny birds. Many of them are in the book, as metaphors for people.
But most of all I love the dream of being something more: People courageously trying to do their utmost, but taking the risk of losing for the want of winning. I think athletics show us the world in a concentrated shape: our whole life is striving, but those runners do the full trajectory in 500 meters.
So I do root for everyone who’s trying to get ahead, who has the patience to wait for that one short moment of victory. Like you. Like everyone else. I’m rooting for you.
“I also root for those who fail, who have to give up, who learn how to get back to their feet again. Like you. Like everyone else. I’m rooting for you.”
But I also root for those who fail, who have to give up, who learn how to get back to their feet again. Like you. Like everyone else. I’m rooting for you.
This attitude, this love for those who try and fail, is warmly wrapped up in Wolf Erlbruch’s moving illustrations made—and I do hope you’ll discover that same love in the poems as well. I’m rooting for you. Don’t give up.
Thank you for giving them a chance.
Purchase I’ll Root for You at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook.com, or your local independent bookstore.