Archive for January, 2015

Henry Ascher in documentary

January 27, 2015
Henry Ascher. Photo: Stefan Tell

Henry Ascher. Photo: Stefan Tell

Professor of paediatrics and jury member Henry Ascher is being portrayed in Bo Harringer’s new documentary Aven de döda har ett namn (“Even the dead has a name”), now featured at the Göteborg International Film Festival. The context is really a journey through time. Partly Henry’s political journey from the Vietnam War to his involvement in the Palestine-Israel conflict, but also a trip even further away in time about his parents and grandparents, his entire family on his father’s side who was murdered in Nazi concentration camps. Bo Harringer wants the film to be “an appeal to all people to learn from history and thus fight Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, all oppression of people of different religions. We must learn to say no, we cannot allow the Nazis to march unnoticed on our streets.” An extremely important and urgent issue, not the least today, on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

ALMA and Barbro Lindgren to Children’s Book Conference in Stavanger

January 23, 2015
Library Sölvberget in Stavanger, Norway. Photo: Anne Lise Norheim

Library Sölvberget in Stavanger, Norway. Photo: Anne Lise Norheim

The first few days in February nearly 300 writers, illustrators, librarians and publishers representatives will gather in Stavanger, Norway to participate in this year’s Nordic Children’s Book Conference.

ALMA participants are Director Helen Sigeland, 2014 Laureate Barbro Lindgren and jury members Mats Kempe and Anna Höglund. This year’s theme is “Downfall – or transition?” and should be seen as a comment on the seriousness that seems to be growing in literature for children and young people, and the many challenges the field of children’s literature faces in our digital age.

– The goal has been to create a common meeting place for Nordic children’s literature, and it´s incredibly fun that the interest is so huge, says Project manager Siri Odfjell Risdag. The conference will be opened by the Director of the Norwegian National Library, Aslak Sira Myrhe. Furthermore, the recipient of the Nordic Council’s Children and Young People’s Literature Prize2014, Øyvind Torseter and Barbro Lindgren, Laureate of the 2014 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, will participate in the program.

The Nordic Children’s Book Conference will proceed February 2-4.

Barbro Lindgren. Photo: Stefan Tell

Barbro Lindgren. Photo: Stefan Tell


Now it’s possible to nominate candidates for the 2016 award

January 20, 2015
Workhop at Kulturhuset with 2011 ALMA Laureate Shaun Tan during the Award week. Photo: Stefan Tell

Workhop at Kulturhuset with 2011 ALMA Laureate Shaun Tan during the Award week. Photo: Stefan Tell

Today the nominating process for the 2016 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award begins. Appointed nominating bodies from all over the world may propose authors/illustrators/storytellers whose work for children and young adult is of the highest artistic quality characterised by the human values that Astrid Lindgren treasured. They may also nominate persons, organisations, institutions working with reading promotion for children and young adult. The possibility to nominate candidates is open until May 15.

More information on the nominating process here

2015 Laureate to be announced on March 31!

January 15, 2015
National Library of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell

National Library of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell

Jury Chair Boel Westin will announce the 2015 laureate of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award on March 31 at 1 p.m. The jury is awarding the world’s largest prize for children’s literature for the thirteenth time. This year 197 candidates were nominated for the award, from 61 countries.

Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke and Director General of the Swedish Arts Council Staffan Forssell will open the press conference. Bah Kuhnke said:

“The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award recognizes authors, illustrators, and promoters of reading whose work meets the highest standards of excellence. Through them, it has shown the world how good literature can be. I look forward to sharing in the moment when the world finds out who the 2015 laureate or laureates will be.”

The press conference will be held at the National Library in Stockholm on March 31 at 1 p.m. and broadcast live to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. After announcing the award, the jury will present the recipient or recipients. The event will be streamed live at

More about the nominated candidates here.

More about the nominating bodies here.

School libraries first step towards better reading comprehension

January 9, 2015
Photo: Jonas Hallqvist

Swedish Reading ambassador Johanna Lindbäck. Photo: Jonas Hallqvist

The interest for reading promotion questions is huge in Sweden right now. International studies indicate that reading comprehension falls among young Swedes, which have led to new assignments for agencies and organisations. In this post Swedish reading ambassador Johanna Lindbäck blogs about possible solutions to the problem:

There’s been a lot of discussion about reading skills here in Sweden after the latest results in the Pisa-tests were presented in Dec 2012. The reading comprehensive part was really poor, and it has been for quite some time. But the news that 23% of the 15 year olds couldn’t read and understand ”a simple text” came as a shock to us. We’re used to being excellent readers, that’s part of our identity, and now… It was clear to everybody that something needed to be done, like yesterday!, to stop this terrible development.

School libraries are often said to be one solution. Studies show that kids perform better overall as they are better readers when there is a library. So, let’s just open a bunch of them and the problem is solved?
This idea worries me quite a lot. I love libraries and I really do want them to be everywhere, especially in schools. The problem is that the praising of them often has the has the same ring as the desperate Swedish teachers I often meet when I visit schools. They ask me what they can do to make their student read better, and how can they get the boys especially to like reading?
They know as well as I do what the answer is. Read a lot in class, year after year, never give up. As a teacher you need to read a lot yourself to find the right books for your class.
But this is an answer that requires a lot of time and effort, and they want me to say something easier and faster. A quick fix they can do for a month or two with great results. If only there was such a thing… School libraries aren’t one either, that’s for sure.

Lots of Swedish schools already have them, staffed with educated librarians, and the students at those schools still fail their reading comprehension tests. How come? Because the library isn’t used properly. The frustrated staff always say the same thing: everybody at the school (the principal and teachers) say how great it is that the library’s there, but no one is really using it. Some kids like to come during recess, but that’s it basically.
Coincidentally, you can often find the frustrated librarian at the same school as the teachers asking how to make their students read more. This is exactly what worries me whenever I hear the chant that libraries are the end of all our troubles.

If it’s going to be successful and the big asset to students and teachers that it could be, a school library should be seen as a great start. Considered the first step. The second step is when the principal develop a plan with the teachers and the librarian(s). This plan should involve all teachers, not just the language teachers. The key factor to better reading comprehension is that it’s everybody’s responsibility. That’s step three. Developing a well-functioning library that’s actually going to improve results takes a lot of hard work, and it can’t be done by one person only (the librarian). Nor can it be done by languge teachers solely. You read and write in all subjects, so all teachers need to be part of this work.

If we think of libraries as a start I won’t worry anymore. Not a bit. But if we think of it as the goal and end of all efforts, we won’t achieve a thing. Sorry.

Johanna Lindbäck
Swedish Reading Ambassador for Young People

More about Johanna Lindbäck here

Talanted illustrators recipents of the 2015 Sendak Fellowship

January 7, 2015
Image from the Sendak Fellowship LCC 2011

Image from the Sendak Fellowship LCC 2011

In 2010 the 2003 ALMA Laureate Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) initiated the Sendak Fellowship, a residency program exclusively for artists who tell stories with illustration. Yesterday Publishers Weekly presented the 2015 recipients:

Richard Egielski has previously received the 1987 Caldecott Medal for illustrating Arthur Yorinks’s Hey, Al, and has illustrated more than 50 children’s books.

Marc McChesney got his start as an assistant to printer Gary Lichtenstein, and has done work in fine-art painting, and through a friendship with Sendak himself was inspired to take up children’s illustration.

Doug Salati has an M.F.A. in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts, and his illustrations have received recognition from American Illustration, 3 x 3, and the Society of Illustrators. Little Tug and Where’s Walrus?

Creator Steven Savage has also had illustration work in various publications and teaches at the School of Visual Arts.

The fellowship consists in a four-week residency for illustrators that runs from July 6–31. The residency is designed to give artists the time and space to explore their craft outside the increasing constraints of the publishing world, but according to PW Maurice Sendak described in his own words that the goal of the fellowship was to: “create work that is not vapid, stupid, or sexy, but original. Work that excites and incites.”

The Fellowship was conducted on Sendak’s own property in Connecticut for its first three years, but has since moved to Scotch Hill Farm in Cambridge, N.Y. The fellowship affords artists the time and space needed to create children’s book illustrations. In addition, the illustrators receive a stipend.

More about the works of Maurice Sendak here.