David Almond wins Hans Christian Andersen medalBritish author ‘stunned’ to take top international children’s literature prize
An international jury of children’s literature experts this afternoon decided to award the world’s most prestigious prize in children’s literature to British author David Almond.
Almond, who won the Carnegie medal and the Whitbread children’s prize with his first children’s book Skellig, the story of a boy who discovers an angel in a derelict garage, was selected as winner from authors around the world, seeing off finalists from Iran, Brazil, Sweden and Denmark to win the medal. Given biennially since 1956 by the International Board on Books for Young People for an author’s complete works, the award comes with no money but much honour: past winners include much-loved British children’s writer Eleanor Farjeon, Pippi Longstocking creator Astrid Lindgren and Moomins author Tove Jansson.
“Good god, that’s absolutely brilliant,” said the Newcastle-born Almond, reached this afternoon at home before he had officially been informed about his win. “It’s amazing. I didn’t think I’d win but you never know — I’d never heard anything from the prize organisers though, so I thought it was all sorted, and that the winner would be out there in Bologna [at the children’s book fair, where the news was announced this afternoon].”
Describing Almond as “a creator of magical realism for children”, the jury praised his “unique voice” and said that he “captures his young readers’ imagination and motivates them to read, think and be critical”. “His use of language is sophisticated and reaches across the ages,” the 10 international members said in a statement.
Almond, author of books including Kit’s Wilderness, about a boy who moves to an insular mining village where his grandfather is starting to succumb to Alzheimer’s, said it was “just fantastic to win something like this, which includes everyone in the world”. “I’m kind of pretty stunned,” said the author, who only turned to children’s books in 1998 with Skellig, having previously published two short story collections for adults. “We’ll probably go out for a meal tonight to celebrate — have a big time out in Hexham.”
Jutta Bauer from Germany was also announced as winner of a parallel medal for illustrators this afternoon. The jury highlighted her “philosophical approach, originality, creativity as well as her ability to communicate with young readers”, and described her as “a powerful narrator who blends real life with legend through her pictures”. Both winners will be presented with their medals on 11 September in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Almond is also in the running for the Astrid Lindgren memorial award, the richest children’s book prize in the world, the winner of which will be announced tomorrow.