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Van Ommen, Sylvia 1978–

Van Ommen, Sylvia 1978–


Born December 16, 1978, in Baarn, Netherlands. Education: Attended Constantijn Huygens Art Academy.


Home—Rijnsburg, Netherlands. E-mail—[email protected]


Author, illustrator, and animator. Illustrator for magazines, newspapers, and educational publications; co-creator, with Maurice van der Bij, of animated television show de Show van Niks ("The Show about Nothing").


(Self-illustrated) Drops, Lemniscaat (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 2002, published as Jellybeans, Roaring Brook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2004, published as Sweets, Winged Chariot Press (Kent, England), 2005.

(Self-illustrated) De verassing, Lemniscaat (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 2002, published as The Surprise, Front Street Books (Asheville, NC), 2007.

Marleen Westera, Schaap en Geit, Lemniscaat (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 2004, translated by Nancy Forest-Flier as Sheep and Goat, Front Street Books (Asheville, NC), 2006.

Marleen Westera, Verteten—per twaalf exemplaren, Lemniscaat (Rotterdam, Netherlands), 2008.


Sylvia van Ommen is the author and illustrator of the well-received picture books Jellybeans and The Surprise. Born in Baarn, Netherlands, van Ommen studied at the Constantijn Huygens Art Academy in Kampen and later contributed illustrations to a variety of magazines, newspapers, and educational publications.

First published in the Netherlands, Jellybeans centers on the philosophical musings of two friends: Oscar the cat and George the rabbit. While snacking on jellybeans in the park, the duo ponder the existence of heaven and the meaning of friendship. "The book is very pure, very basic," observed Ilene Cooper in Booklist, and a Kirkus Reviews critic applauded the "feather light treatment of the weightiest subject … all of it made charmingly comprehensible" by the author/illustrator's work. According to a contributor in Publishers Weekly, van Ommen's "spare artwork is as streamlined, childlike and winsome as her narrative, which is likely to inspire dialogue … about what might lie ahead."

In The Surprise, a wordless picture book, a fluffy sheep primps before a mirror, then dashes off to purchase some bright red dye. After her fleece is colored, the protagonist shears it off and heads to a poodle's shop, where the wool is spun into yarn. Returning home, the sheep grabs her knitting needles and transforms the yarn into a wonderful garment for a friend. "Van Ommen's charming compositions in thickly applied gouache clearly chronicle the sequence of events," Jennifer Mattson remarked in Booklist, and a Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly noted that the book's "bright, spare paintings offer just enough detail and information to keep pages turning." A contributor in Kirkus Reviews described The Surprise as "a feel-good tale in any language, bright in both mood and color."

Van Ommen also provided the artwork for Marleen Westera's Sheep and Goat, a collection of short tales about an unlikely friendship. Though quiet, reflective Sheep and gregarious, curious Goat appear to be mismatched in every way, their concern for one another is evident. "Simple, evocative drawings perfectly complement the story's warmth and generous spirit," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. According to Elizabeth Bird, writing in School Library Journal, van Ommen's "pen-and-ink drawings are pitch perfect and more than a little extraordinary."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, April 15, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Jellybeans, p. 1462; May 15, 2007, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Surprise, p. 53.

Guardian (London, England), November 12, 2005, Julia Eccleshare, "Head and Heart," review of Sweets.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2005, review of Jellybeans, p. 483; November 1, 2006, review of Sheep and Goat, p. 1125; March 1, 2007, review of The Surprise, p. 233.

Publishers Weekly, April 11, 2005, review of Jellybeans, p. 54; May 14, 2007, review of The Surprise, p. 52.

School Library Journal, June, 2005, Marianne Saccardi, review of Jellybeans, p. 130; November, 2006, Elizabeth Bird, review of Sheep and Goat, p. 116; May, 2007, Marianne Saccardi, review of The Surprise, p. 110.


Luster Productions Web site, (December 20, 2007), "Sylvia van Ommen."

Show about Nothing Web site, (December 20, 2007), "Sylvia van Ommen."

Sylvia van Ommen Home Page, (December 20, 2007).

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