Archive for the ‘Previous winners’ Category

Shaun Tan’s The Rabbits – now as opera for children and adults

February 16, 2015
The Rabbits is based on original illustrations by Shaun Tan. Picture: Georges Antoni

The Rabbits is based on original illustrations by Shaun Tan. Picture: Georges Antoni

The world premiere of the production was held at the Heath Ledger Theatre on Friday night as part of Perth International Arts Festival.The Rabbits, composed by popular and classically trained songstress Kate Miller-Heidke with Libretto by Lally Katz, and adapted and directed by Barking Gecko Theatre Company’s John Sheedy, is the short, sweet and straight-to-the-point story of the Marsupials, whose world is one day invaded by the Rabbits.

The Rabbits (1998) is a symbolic portrayal of Australia’s colonial past or, more generally, of what happens when a technologically advanced culture meets one rooted in nature.  It was originally written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, who has described the book as a major step forward for him on a personal level. After initially not succeeding to get a proper feel for John Marsden’s text, he eventually found a solution. He presented, as he puts it, “… more unexpected ideas to build a parallel story of my own. Not an illustration of the text, but something to react with it symbiotically.” Shaun Tan describes The Rabbits as a story about power, ignorance and environmental destruction, but also as a dark, serious animal fable, a narrative form he believes is understood by everyone.

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.

Inside the Mind of Ryôji Arai

December 19, 2014
Ryôji Arai. Photo: Stefan Tell

Ryôji Arai. Photo: Stefan Tell

That´s actually the title of an ongoing exhibition at the Ginza Graphic Gallery in Tokyo, featuring works of 2005 ALMA laureate Ryôji Arai. The exhibition includes original drawings created from Ryôji’s latest picture book Inochi da mon (approx. That’s Life, Foil 2014), which is a story that takes readers on a journey noticing of the important things that can easily go overlooked in everyday life. The exhibition also includes other new works and imaginary book covers created in homage to books he likes. The GGG also arranges a Gallery talk between Ryôji Arai and author Shinji Ishii, who has written a series of short stories about Ryôji and his traveling door (!!). A volume dedicated to “gggBooks-113 Ryoji Arai” will also be published.

Inside the Mind of Ryôji Arai durates until December 25th.

Poster of ggg

Poster of ggg

During the autumn, Ryôji Arai has had several engagements, among other things being appointed Artistic Director of the Michinoku Arts Festival, the Yamagata Biennale 2014. He has also created various art pieces for public art and created the opening illustrations for a popular drama series on the Japanese National Television, NHK.

Cover of Inochi da mon (Foil 2014),

Cover of Inochi da mon (Foil 2014)

A Primitive Boy, by Ryôji Arai. Yamagata Biennale 2014

A Primitive Boy, by Ryôji Arai. Yamagata Biennale 2014

At Oita Prefecture, Gate Breathing In the Sun by Ryôji Arai.

At Oita Prefecture, Gate Breathing In the Sun by Ryôji Arai.

Philip Pullman about the importance of fairytales in BBC interview

December 2, 2014

“There are all sorts of reasons why fairytales are important, and interesting and valuable to us”, says 2005 ALMA Laureate Philip Pullman in an interview with BBC Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark.

“One thing is that they´re engaged with very deep human themes. The difficulties of being a stepparent, the trauma of being hungry and unable to find anything to eat, the thrill and excitement of being young, adventurous and finding your way in the world. These are things that the fairytales deals with.”

Two years ago Pullman released his version of the Fairytales from the Brothers Grimm (Penguin, 2012), a book which have been described as a fresh, sparkling collection of the finest stories from the Brothers Grimm, hand-picked by an author perfectly suited to the task (Library journal). Last week the Grimm Tales for Young and Old opened at Bargehouse on London’s Southbank – a “brand new immersive storytelling experience”.

Watch this rare interview produced by the BBC:

“Sometimes I can’t believe my own life.” Katherine Paterson about her memoirs

November 19, 2014

“I realized there were family stories that my children didn’t know and I should write them down,” Paterson said to Sally Pollak, Burlington Free Press, about her newly published memoirs “Stories of my Life”. “It would be a good thing for the kids and for the grandchildren.” In “Stories of my Life” (Dial Books, 2014) 2006 ALMA Laureate Katherine Paterson looks back on her life with warmth, self-effacing humor and extraordinary humility (Publishers Weekly). She grew up in China and trained as a missionary in Japan before beginning her writing career in America. Her work has included picture books and books for the very young, often based around fairytales and myths, yet it is as a writer of novels for young readers that she is best known. Often set in historical contexts in Japan, China or the US, yet frequently too against a contemporary American backdrop, these novels deal with important and sometimes difficult issues such as broken families and children at risk.

The main characters in her books are often vulnerable, slightly odd children, a projection of certain aspects of her own childhood. Her upbringing in China during the 1930s and her family’s move back to the US resulted in a feeling of rootlessness:

– When we were evacuated from China to the United States, I was an alien in the country my parents called home. We had very little money, and in the beginning my friends were the people I met in the books I read.

– I suppose I grew up with an understanding about what it means to be outside the mainstream of society. I used to feel sad for my nine year old self, but I finally realized that all during those difficult days of war and then alienation, I had two parents who loved me. A child with two loving parents is rich indeed. I’m afraid I haven’t given most of my characters this gift, but I hope I’ve provided them with the strength and help they need to endure, and, maybe even triumph over, adversity. (ALMA interview 2006.)

In 2006 she received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for her lifetime achievement.

Katherine Paterson is a brilliant psychologist who gets right under the skin of the vulnerable young people she creates, whether in historical or exotic settings, or in the grim reality of the USA today. With a deft aesthetic touch she avoids simple solutions, building instead on the inner strength and courage of her main characters.
The citation of the jury

Katherine Paterson receives the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

Katherine Paterson receives the 2006 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.


Katherine Paterson at the Astrid Lindgren sculpture during the 2006 Award week.

Katherine Paterson at the Astrid Lindgren sculpture during the 2006 Award week.

Palestinian author and storyteller receives prestigious Arabic literature award

November 6, 2014
Cover of Wonder Travels in Mysterious Lands by Sonia Nimr. The cover is made by Lubna Taha.

Cover of Wonder Travels in Mysterious Lands by Sonia Nimr. The cover is made by Lubna Taha.

Sonia Nimr, Palestinian author and storyteller, was announced as this year’s recipient of the 2014 Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature, one of the most important and prestigious award for children’s literature in the Arab world, for her young adults book “Wonderful Trips in the Mysterious World”. The book “creates a world of fantasy with a touch of reality, where she brings back the dreams of travelling around the world, and challenges stereotypes through her heroine “Qamar”, where readers spend a long journey with her crossing dangerous oceans and deserts.”

It was published last year by the 2009 ALMA Laureate Tamer Institute for Community Education, who distributed to over 1200 public and school libraries inside Palestine. Discussion circles were organized around the book in at least 100 of the libraries. According to Tamer Institute, the book was very well received by the librarians:

One librarian adds “once received the book, I read it and was sure that young adults will love it and I was right. The book is now listed among the most read at my library, and for a while it was wondering among young adults before it finally returned back to the shelve”. Another librarian discussed the book with young adults and had to say “during the discussion, young adults related to the extent which imagination is introducing realistic social life within the book. They also related to the complex within the book, where Qamar the protagonist was sold as a slave and how she had to confront by starting her travel. They were amazed by her persistence to continue despite the everlasting hardships she had to face”.

Congratulations to both Sonia Nimr and Tamer Institute!

The Arrival at bilingual theatre Uusi Theatre

September 22, 2014

Last Saturday was the premiere of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival at the Swedish Finnish Uusi Theatre in Stockholm. The Director Emil Sandberg says that the themes, language, identity and alienation in the book felt anxious for the bilingual theatre.

– The new country, which Shaun Tan’s story is set in, is as foreign to all beholders of different cultures and languages, but thus equally available, says Sandberg.

Back row: Stage Designer Karl Anders, Composer Yves Diop, Director Emil Sandberg. Front row: actors Jaakko Kulmala, Sannah Nedergård and Sanna Sandberg.

Back row: Stage Designer Anders Karls, Composer Yves Diop, Director Emil Sandberg. Front row: actors Jaakko Kulmala, Sannah Nedergård and Sanna Sandberg.

The performances are played on either Finnish or Swedish entirely dependent on the audience, but also dominated by a ringing nonsense language spoken by the inhabitants of the foreign city, completely incomprehensible to both the protagonist as well as the audience. Sandberg says that the entirely wordless graphic novel invites you to a dramatic performance, just as the movement and sounds from actors and stage design opens up a possibility to give the story new interpretations. The performance is played by three actors: Sanna Sandberg, Jaakko Kulmala and Sannah Nedergård, and is set at Uusi Theatre’s home stage at Hälsingegatan 3 in Stockholm. The music has been composed by Yyves Diop.

/Elina Druker, member of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award jury

Illustration: Anders Karls, Uusi Teattri

Illustration: Anders Karls, Uusi Teatteri

Festival Dedication to Katherine Paterson today at the Burlington Book Festival

September 19, 2014
Katherine Paterson at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in 2012. Photo: Stefan Tell

Katherine Paterson at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in 2012. Photo: Stefan Tell

Today the annual Book Festival in Burlington, Vermont, USA, opens. The event is called a celebration of the written word featuring literary luminaries from around the world and just around the corner.

And just around the corner lives ALMA Laureate author Katherine Paterson, who received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2006. Today she is celebrated at the festival:

– Each year the Festival is dedicated to a Vermont figure who has made a significant contribution in the areas of literature or literacy, says Festival founder and director Rick Kisonack. Katherine’s selection is a no-brainer given her distinguished, world-renowned work in both of these areas.

According to Williston Observer “Fans can also get the first look at her memoir—Paterson’s publisher has agreed to make copies of “Stories of My Life” available for sale at the festival dedication, a month ahead of it’s October release.”

Katherine Paterson is presented at the Book Festival’s web like this:

Katherine Paterson’s international fame rests not only on her widely acclaimed novels but also on her efforts to promote literacy in the United States and abroad. A two-time winner of the Newbery Medal (“Bridge to Terabithia” and “Jacob Have I Loved”) and the National Book Award (“The Great Gilly Hopkins” and “The Master Puppeteer”), she has received numerous additional accolades for her body of work including the Hans Christian Andersen Medal and the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature. For her career contribution to “children’s and young adult literature in the broadest sense”, she won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from the Swedish Arts Council in 2006, the most prestigious prize in children’s literature. She has also served as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (2010-2011). Katherine received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the American Library Association in 2013 and has been named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

Interview with Sonya Hartnett in the Australian

August 19, 2014
Photo: Stefan Tell

Photo: Stefan Tell

Australian author and 2008 ALMA laureate Sonya Harnett is in the limelight now with a new novel for adults, The Golden Boys, (Penguin), “an urban gothic tale”. The Australian’s Literary Editor Stephen Romei met her to talk about the new book, and the result of the interview was published last week. First part the interview here:

‘CHILDREN live in a very animal world, one that’s constantly on the verge of war,’’ says Sonya Hartnett. “You look at childhood and think, how do any of us survive that sort of shit? They are constantly on the edge of peril, particularly from each other. They attack each other mercilessly and I find that so…’’ She pauses to locate the right word. “Endearin­g.’’

In that single word choice, we have the enigma of Sonya Hartnett. She’s an award-winning writer for children and young adults who has no offspring of her own and doesn’t come across as particularly fond of kids, or people in general for that matter. Her YA and adult novels are spot-on in their empathetic depiction of the mind-clouding confusion, embarrassment and latent violence of childhood, yet she says she remembers little of her own childhood and nothing at all of her school years.

She creates vulnerable, volatile characters — 14-year-old Plum in the Miles Franklin-shortlisted Butterfly (2009), to take a recent example — and is a bit surprised when readers take them to heart and are upset by their (fictional) fates. “They do. In a way you think is very insane.’’

She published her first novel at 15 and in the three decades since has written acclaimed books for readers of all ages but says she’d much rather be a “flip woman”, buying, renovating and selling houses, an enterprise for which she has discovered a passion and a talent.

She laments, only half-jokingly, that she has not won enough literary awards, then skewers the newish Stella Prize for Australian women’s literature, adding: “If this means I’ll never win their prize, so be it.’’

She laughs a lot throughout our interview in an outer Melbourne pub — on a couple of occasions literally rolling over on the couch with mirth — but later, on playing back the tape, I real­ise her words are full of existential angst. “I feel we live in a world where nothing matters any more,’’ she says at one point.

Hartnett loves animal similes. In her new novel, Golden Boys, which will be published later this month, there’s a wonderful scene early on when two 10-year-old boys, one fragile, one resilient, meet for the first time: “It’s like a jack russell being introduced to a budgerigar: in ­theory they could be friends, but in practice sooner or later there will be bright feathers on the floor.’’ Elsewhere in the novel children are likened to birds, fish, possums and giraffes, and adults to tigers, lions, wolves, sharks, monsters.

“I’ve always been aware of the fact that humans are animals,’’ she says, “and it puzzles me why we don’t rejoice more in that, why in this day and age we still quietly don’t like the idea that we are just animals. There is a beautiful logic in the way an animal operates.’’

It’s only logical, therefore, to wonder what sort of animal Hartnett might be. A Cheshire cat, perhaps, grinning and grinning and expounding an uneasy philosophy. But when the question is put, she doesn’t have an easy answer. “I am not sure what animal I would associate myself with … something stubborn and solitary, squat and easily annoyed. A badger?’’

HARNETT, 46, is the eldest of six children (four girls, two boys). Her mother was a mater­nity nurse and her father had a series of jobs, including as a proofreader with Melbourne newspapers. The family grew up in Mont Albert, in Melbourne’s east, and unlike her adult experience, they stayed put. Indeed, her mother still lives in the home in which Hartnett grew up. ‘‘Well, she still lives in it in the sense she lives on the same block of land, but they knocked down the house and built a new one,’’ she says.

“I actually found that a hard thing to forgive, that she knocked down our family home, and I don’t know that I ever will really resolve myself to that situation. Often when I think about going to see Mum I still visualise that house.’’

Read full article here


Snapshot 2014: Shaun Tan

July 28, 2014
Shaun Tan receiving the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell

Shaun Tan receiving the 2011 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Photo: Stefan Tell

2011 ALMA laureate Shaun Tan interviewed by blogger Helen Stubbs, a story published today on

  1. Congratulations on your Ditmar Award for Best Artwork for The Rules of Summer. Can you tell us a bit about the book? If he eats the last olive at the watchful-bird party, will the birds eat him? (Asking for my daughter.)

To answer your daughter’s question: probably. What I like about narrative painting, which is probably a more precise description of what I do that ‘illustration’, is that there is a little mystery in a picture’s past and also its future. All we can see as an audience is a particular moment, and I suppose I’m trying to make that moment as charged as possible, exploiting the stillness and silence of painting, which I love. Rules of Summer is basically a series of such charged moments that collectively describe, in a weird and fractured kind of way, the relationship between two boys who are probably brothers (it’s never clear, and I usually don’t ascribe any particular identity to my story characters). There is no traditional narrative, although there is a kind of building conflict and resolution told through several oil paintings, each accompanied by an obscure rule that appears to have been broken by the youngest boy: Never step on a snail, Never leave a red sock on a clothesline, Never give your keys to a stranger, and so on. It’s both frivolous and serious at the same time.

  1. What were the highlights of working as a concept artist and animator on the various films you’ve worked on, including The Lost Thing? How does it compare to working on artwork and narrative for a book?

The main difference is collaboration. Books are very solitary projects for me, even in the past when I’ve collaborated with other writers I’m still very much working on my own. The Rabbits, for instance, with John Marsden involved no real discussion between author and illustrator during production, and that’s not uncommon with picture books, that can work fine. Film, however, is fundamentally about collective creativity, simply because it’s impossible for one individual to do everything (with rare exceptions). How is that different? It can actually make the process a lot more fun, a lot more fluid, because there’s a conversation between diverse imaginations, and those moments of collaboration would be the highlights. The possible down side is that certain compromises are required, but that’s nothing unusual, and not necessarily a negative thing. The main thing is that everyone is working towards the same objective, the realisation of which can take many different forms. You learn not to get hung up on any singular vision necessarily, because it just might not be able to be realised in practical terms: instead you take a core feeling and adapt it as best you can.

  1. What projects are you developing at the moment?

Not much at present, partly on account of looking after our baby daughter at home a lot of the time (ie. she is the new project!). I recently illustrated a collection of Grimm fairy tales for a German publisher, and am trying to get that work together for an Australian edition. That was an interesting project as I put aside painting and drawing, and for the first time decided to illustrate each story using clay sculptures, which I then photographed. It forced me to simplify my work, and not think too hard about each one, modelling the forms quite spontaneously, which I found very refreshing.

  1. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Gosh, I feel I haven’t been paying much attention lately! I’ve been revisiting a lot of older work that left an impression on me when I was younger, particularly Tim Winton as a fellow West Australian whose stories are very landscape-inspired (as I would say mine are). In the SF vein, I very much like the work of Jeremy Geddes, amazing oil paintings with subtle narratives. Comics by Many Ord I find very amusing and honestly drawn. Both these artists make some use of the Melbourne urban landscape that I’m gradually tuning in to.

  1. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

It hasn’t changed the way I work very much, in fact that hasn’t changed significantly since I had my first illustrations published in Aurealis and Eidolon magazine in the early 1990s. I’m sitting at the same desk, literally, and using the same materials. I have made slight forays into new media, co-directing an app adaptation of Rules of Summer which was very interesting. Overall I’m quite lucky, as my early career was nurtured by small independent publishers who were happy to take certain risks with unconventional work, and my stories seem to have often appeared at the right time; for example, coinciding with a renewed interest in graphic novels and picture books for older readers. If I was starting over again, I’m not sure how I might go.

What will I be working on in five years? No idea, or else more of the same! I always have a bunch of ideas for books rattling around, but they rarely coalesce into something that is worth pursuing, it’s such a commitment of time and effort. I’m also interested in spending more time doing straight landscape painting (ie. not illustrative or fantastic). The Arrival is also being considered for feature film development, but any news on that front is likely to be some way off, and I’m not actively thinking about it too much just now. It could make a brilliant film, but only if the right people are at the helm, and finance is a whole other conundrum. Whatever happens, I’ll most likely continue working from the same desk as I’ve always done, a pencil in one hand and an eraser in the other.

Shaun Tan grew up in Perth, Western Australia and currently works as an artist, writer and film-maker in Melbourne. He began creating images for science fiction stories in small-press magazines as a teenager, and has since become best known for illustrated books that deal with social, political and historical subjects through dream-like imagery. The Rabbits, The Red Tree, The Lost Thing, Tales from Outer Suburbia and the graphic novel The Arrival have been widely translated throughout the world and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Shaun has also worked as a theatre designer, a concept artist for Pixar and Blue Sky Studios, and won an Academy Award for the short film adaptation of The Lost Thing. In 2011 he received the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Sweden, in recognition of his services to literature for young people.