Alfie creator Shirley Hughes, children’s laureate Chris Riddell and award-winning novelist Malorie Blackman are among the 23 British contenders for the Astrid Lindgren memorial award, the world’s largest prize for children’s literature.
Won this year by Meg Rosoff, the SEK 5m prize receives nominations from literary experts around the world, with 226 candidates from 60 countries in the running for this year’s prize. The nominees can be writers, illustrators, reading promoters or storytellers, but must produce work “of the highest artistic quality”, featuring Pippi Longstocking author Lindgren’s own “humanistic values”. Last year, judges said that, “like Astrid Lindgren, Rosoff empathises completely with young people and is utterly loyal to them”.
This year, the UK has fielded the largest number of nominations for the award, with the authors Allan Ahlberg and David Almond among the 23 contenders, who also include the illustrators Jan Pienkowski, Riddell and Quentin Blake. Neil Gaiman is also nominated this year, as are Michael Morpurgo, Patrick Ness and Michael Foreman.
Irish nominees include Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer, while other candidates come from countries ranging from Japan to Iran. American nominees include Judy Blume, Ursula K LeGuin and The Hungry Caterpillar author and illustrator Eric Carle.
“We in the jury are very much looking forward to learning more about the works and the activities of the candidates, said jury chairman Prof Boel Westin. “The nomination list is a goldmine for anyone interested in international children’s and YA literature. I hope that this list will be spread and used in all possible situations concerning reading and storytelling.”
The winner will be announced on 4 April, joining a list of former laureates that includes Maurice Sendak, Philip Pullman, Swedish author Barbro Lindgren and the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (Praesa), a reading and literature organisation.
On winning the award last year, Rosoff said it gave her an “extraordinary sense of affirmation”. She said: “I do genuinely believe, and I tell my students, that your job as a writer is not to read reviews or Goodreads or to be on Twitter drumming up business, but to write books. The goal of writing is to write, not to pay attention to accolades. But on the other hand, it does make a difference.
“It feels amazing. I can’t get over it. My last two books in the UK weren’t even shortlisted for the Carnegie … so it’s really nice to have affirmation from the international community, especially when so many people on the list are either madly famous, or who I just admire so much.”