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The 2012 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award

Guus KuijerGuus Kuijer in conversation with Lars H. Gustafsson, paediatrician and ALMA jury member, at
Riksdagsbiblioteket (parliament library), May 23, 2012. Photo by Stefan Tell.

"And do you know how happiness begins? It begins with no longer being afraid."—Guus Kuijer, The Book of Everything

On Monday, May 28, the people of Sweden gave writer Guus Kuijer of the Netherlands the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (alma), the world’s largest prize for children and young-adult literature. It is presented annually to an author, illustrator, storyteller, or reading promoter who upholds the spirit and vision of the award’s namesake, Astrid Lindgren. Lindgren is one of the most important and beloved Swedish authors, known worldwide for her spunky red-haired character Pippi Longstocking. The award recognizes the importance of children’s literature: as the ALMA website says, “Good literature gives the child a place in the world, and the world a place in the child.” This year marks the tenth anniversary of ALMA. Other recipients of this prestigious award include Maurice Sendak in 2003, Katherine Paterson in 2006 (who also received the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature in 2007), and Shaun Tan (interviewed in the September 2008 issue of WLT) in 2011. (Click here to see a list of the jurors and nominees for the 2013 NSK Prize.)

Kuijer’s writing often includes discussions of contemporary society and attempts to answer “life’s big questions.” Strong female protagonists are also typical in his work. In a Guardian article about the award, the prize jury said of Kuijer’s work, “He paints a perceptive picture of the adult world. His commitment extends to social and religious issues alike, and the consistent message of his books is one of tolerance, understanding, and broad-mindedness.”

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