The Book of Everything Synopsis

Short Summary

Nine year-old Thomas can see things no one else can: tropical fish thriving in the Amsterdam canals, trumpeting sparrows and even a hailstorm of frogs. He also sees the unhappiness of his family, the violence in his father, and the pain that lingers long after the war is over. All this – good and bad – he carefully records in his magical and hopeful Book of Everything.

 “It’s not quite right to say that “The Book of Everything” is one of the best children’s shows in town. It’s one of the best shows, period…Warm, witty, wise and wonderful.”
-New York Post
“…this hilarious, honest and beautifully rendered play…is exemplary children’s theatre.”
–The Guardian, UK
“…one of the most delightful family productions I have seen for many years.”
–The Australian

Characters:

Thomas Klopper: Age nine, nearly ten. A sweet, mischievous boy with a huge imagination

Margot Klopper: His sixteen year old sister

Eliza with the leather leg: Age 16. Margot’s friend. Beautiful (to Thomas) and with an artificial leg, a reminder of the war.

Mother: Caring, quiet and made submissive by her husband

Father: Authoritarian, religious, with a violent temper

Bumbiter: A neighborhood dog that bites people’s bums

Mrs. Van Amersfoort: The witch who lives next door

Auntie Pie (pronounced “pee”): Thomas’s aunt. A bit on the loony side

Jesus: Very much like a hippy

Ensemble: Children, the church congregation, the Reading Out Loud Club, Guest, townspeople

 

Extended Summary

Thomas is blessed with the ability to "see" things that no one else can see. He is visited often by Jesus, who speaks to Thomas about his life. He sees hailstorms and he witnesses some of the five plagues mentioned in the Bible's Old Testament, portions of which Father reads aloud to the family each night. At the same time, Thomas repeats to himself that "God does not exist" when he is punished by his father, who strikes him repeatedly with a wooden spoon on his bare bottom. At home, Thomas witnesses frequent angry outbursts and domestic violence on a regular basis.

Thomas's only hope for a change in his family circumstances comes from an unlikely source: Mrs. van Amersfoort, the next-door neighbor believed by neighborhood children to be a witch. The eccentric old woman invites Thomas into her home one day, and he learns that her late husband was executed by the Nazis during World War II. She is kind to Thomas, and seems to know about the violence in his home. She lends him books to read, asks him to read poetry aloud to her, and tells him not to be frightened. She later writes a note to Thomas's father, warning him that she knows what goes on in the Klopper home.

With the help of Mrs. van Amersfoort, the family holds a read-aloud club meeting at the Klopper home - a decision that has Thomas worried because they never have guests in their home. Father has no idea that the meeting will be held, but Thomas, Margot, and Mother all know about it in advance. A group of women arrive for the meeting, including Mrs. van Amersfoort, and they applaud Thomas when he reads poetry out loud to them. The women also bring Mrs. Van Amersfoort's gramophone with them, and play classical and jazz music by Louis Armstrong. 

When Father calls the music "heathenish" and complains that the poetry sounds like "empty vessels," he is chastised by one of the women in the group. Father angrily retreats to his study, outnumbered by a group of women who are clearly there to support and love Thomas, Mother, and Margot. The bond that was secretly formed will continue to protect the family from further harm.

Jesus appears to Thomas that night and tells him that he cannot help Thomas' father. Thomas realizes at that point that some people can't be redeemed because of their anger and unhappiness. But it's clear that because of their friends, the family circumstances will now change for the better.