Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award: The Winner of 2022 – Eva Lindström!
The degree to which Americans don’t really pay much attention to the international community is beautifully summed up by the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Never mind that several American have won it periodically over the years. Never mind that it’s a prize of 5 million krona / $462,00 euros / $550,00 U.S. dollars, an amount just behind the Nobel prize (“And, of course, much more important” said the Chair of the Award to laughter). Awarded by the Swedish Arts Council, that’s where the money is coming from.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Award. 12 members make up the selecting committee, consisting of authors, professors, academics, librarians, illustrators, a medical doctor interested in children’s rights, and a member of the Astrid Lindgren family. Together they discuss and evaluate the candidates. This year, they had 282 candidates from 71 countries coming from all kinds of children’s literature backgrounds. They are writers, illustrators, reading promoters, and storytellers. And each and every last one of them is nominated by international nominating bodies. So if you see someone refer to “ALMA”, that stands for the Astrid Lindgreen Memorial Award. They made a special point that if you feel your country should have more nominating bodies, please suggest them as they’re always looking to broaden their perspective. After all, some parts of the world are accessible while others, not so much. They would like to be informed of what they are missing.
The General Director of the Swedish Arts Council came up and made a statement right from the start about the people of Ukraine. More specifically, they made it clear that they stand with people who stand for human rights in both Ukraine and in Russia. “It is more important than ever to meet and collaborate in an international context. Translated literature allows for the exchange of ideas worldwide.”
Sweden’s Ambassador to Italy spoke next. He felt a bit out of his element since he’s really more a politician than anything else, but his speech was stirring. He began by saying that yesterday he watched the news. There he saw a little girl refugee arriving from Ukraine to a Polish refugee center where she had a book held tight in her hands. As she read the book, he knew that for some minutes she would forget the horror around her. “Culture is our first and strongest defense against barbarism.” He then remembered when he was a child and noted that he was the first generation in his country (Sweden) who grew up with Astrid Lindgren. Every day he watched 30 minutes of children’s programming and there was always Astrid Lindgren there in some way. That, in turn, led to her books.
Now the whole time these folks were talking there was an enormous timer going on behind them. The reason for this was that it was a countdown from the live feed in Sweden, announcing the final winner if the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Unfortunately, it also meant that the poor Swedish Minister of Culture had to vamp a bit until it ran out. He spoke of, “The world’s greatest children’s author” (a.k.a. Astrid Lindgren) who was not afraid of talking about the not-so-sunny aspects of life. She trusted the children, and the grown-ups around them, to cope with worries. He went on to note that “we are constantly reminded that free speech is not a matter of course in our work. Perhaps most of all, a book is one of the strongest symbols of the freedom of expression. It’s the notion that anything can be written or said, no matter how much we dislike it. Protecting democracy and strengthening respect for human rights and freedom is a matter for all of us. The power of literature makes it evident why reading promotion is one of the most important priorities as the Swedish Minister for Culture and it is why the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is so important.”
They then played this video:
Abd finally, it was time.
And the winners is . . . Eva Lindström!
Yeah. No. No, I didn’t know her either. But that’s not really any of our faults. Very few of her books have been translated into English and brought to the U.S. Fortunately, Jules Danielson over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast wrote this post back in 2017 that gives us a bit of a peek.
Okay, so apparently Ms. Lindström is Swedish. Which makes a bit of sense. I mean, if your award comes from Sweden, named after the world’s most famous Swedish illustrator, then why shouldn’t it go to a Swedish book creator at its 20th anniversary?
What I found particularly interesting was that the award committee proceeded at this point to play a sound recording of Ms. Lindström receiving the good news over the phone. This proves to me that all literary award committees are alike. Sooner or later, they’re going to play an acceptance call.
But who precisely is Eva Lindström? Well, she’s an author/illustrator who started her picture book career in the 1980s. She has equal ease in creating her own book solo, as well as illustrating other people’s titles. Several of her books have been turned into short films as well. as for her style, it was described as having “flattened perspectives and a small frame.”
They proceeded to show a whole list of her books, including one that was simply called SIZZLES IS PECKISH. I happen to think that’s a boffo name.
Would you like to see her books? You may be in luck. Gecko Press was able to bring two of her title to our shores. Take time out of your day to check out the following:
Wish you’d been there? Then enjoy this film of the whole awards presentation:
Filed under: Bologna Children's Book Fair
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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