Britons in running for richest children's book prize

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Seven UK authors are in contention for the £400,000 Astrid Lindgren award
Fri 19 Sep 2008 11.21 EDT

Seven British authors are in the running for the world's richest children's book prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial award.

The creators of the Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, are nominated alongside illustrators Quentin Blake and Anthony Browne, as well as novelists David Almond, Michael Morpurgo, Eva Ibbotson and 147 more authors and literacy projects from around the world, for a prize worth 5m Swedish krona (£410,000).

Ibbotson pronounced herself "very pleased" to be in with a chance of the award.

"It's not bad, is it," she said. "I think I would probably accept it if they offered it to me - you can't turn it down because it's too meagre. There are 152 other applicants, so one can't be certain of winning ... one won't go out and buy a hat quite yet."

Intended to strengthen and increase interest in children's and youth literature around the world, the prize is awarded for a body of work which "upholds the highest artistic quality and evokes the deeply humanistic spirit that Astrid Lindgren treasured".

Ibbotson said it was a "very great honour" to be nominated, particularly as the award is in memory of Lindgren, whom she described as an "absolutely incredible writer". She said she felt her own writing was "probably not quite serious enough" to win, describing herself as "more of an entertainer". "But then Astrid Lindgren was as well," she added.

Two other British contenders are Newcastle-based children's book centre Seven Stories, and publisher and author husband-and-wife team Aidan and Nancy Chambers. "We're very excited," said Kathryn Row at Seven Stories. "We are a registered charity so it would be a massive boost for us."

The award was established by the Swedish government following the death of Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren in 2002, aged 94. Last year's winner was Australian writer Sonya Hartnett, and other recipients include Philip Pullman, Maurice Sendak and Venezuelan book project Banco del Libro.

This year nominations were received from 60 countries. The winner, picked by a panel of judges, will be announced in March 2009.