Nordic children’s and youth literature addresses themes such as gender equality, children’s and adult relationships, diversity, and inclusion. It presents everyday life as it is, but also conveys timeless dystopian and utopian stories. The Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize has helped to raise awareness of the treasure trove of literature and images in the Nordic Region, enabling children and young people to enjoy them.
Of huge importance for authors and illustrators
The prize goes to a literary work for children and young people written in one of the Nordic languages. Norwegian author Nora Dåsnes, who won the prize in 2022 for her graphic novel Ubesvart anrop, says that winning the prize has been one of the greatest experiences in her life.
“There’s so much uncertainty at the start of an artist’s career, and I’ve felt that I have to produce work at a fast pace and be present everywhere in order to grab people’s attention. With this prize, I’ve found peace in my role as a writer. It’s a recognition that not even my impostor syndrome can ignore, both because of the jury’s rationale and conscientiousness, and because the prize is so well regarded in the Nordic Region. I’ve noticed that because of this prize, my writing has been given a chance by adults who don’t usually read children’s books or cartoons. It’s also been lovely to be congratulated at the beginning of all the interactions I’ve had during the several months after the awards ceremony.”
Interplay between text and image
Many of the works that have been nominated during the year are close collaborations between authors and illustrators. One such example is the winning book in 2020 Vi är lajon by Swedish author Jens Mattsson and Finnish illustrator Jenny Lucander. For Mattsson, it was an especially big surprise to win the award for his debut book.
“It was complete madness! The award has opened a lot of doors and I’ve been able to do a lot of different fun events, but it has also skyrocketed the expectations of what I’ll achieve in the future.”
For illustrator Jenny Lucander, the award has been an important recognition, but it’s also had a great impact on the reach of the book in several countries.
“For me, the award resulted in some fantastic recognition as a picture book artist. It felt important to sense that I was part of a Nordic community. At first, the announcement of the award felt like a shock like no other, but later of course came the feeling of gratitude, honour and incredible joy. The award serves as confirmation that what I do is good and important and gives me the strength to continue with my work even though day-to-day life as an artist can feel tough at times. I’m deeply grateful for the collaboration with Jens Mattsson and for being able to illustrate his emotional story Vi är lajon. Thanks to the prize, the book has received a lot of attention and reached many readers. It has also been translated into several different languages.”
Lucander adds that the nomination was already a win in itself as it provided an opportunity to participate in various interesting Nordic literary contexts, which has also given her the opportunity to meet other authors and illustrators for inspiring conversations and collaboration.
Awareness that attracts more readers
Norway’s Kristin Roskifte, who won the 2019 prize for her book Alle sammen teller, says that her book got many more readers thanks to the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize. On top of that, the opportunity to meet Nordic colleagues has been very important.
“The very best thing about winning the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize is the feeling that what I do is noticed and taken seriously. It gives me the inspiration, courage, and sense of security to continue working. I’m glad to know that the book has gained many more readers. Of course, the publisher uses the prize in their marketing efforts. A big bonus has been getting to know so many talented colleagues from all over the Nordic Region, and to realise that we have a large children’s literature community which stretches across national borders.”
Several successful initiatives in children’s and young people’s literature
In parallel with the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize, the Nordic Council of Ministers also launched the project LYFTET to increase the visibility of Nordic children’s and young people’s literature. Among other things, the project resulted in an annual seminar between 2019 and 2021 where authors, illustrators and industry professionals could meet and exchange experiences. The three-part anthology The Length and Breadth of the Nordic Region summarises current topics such as eco-criticism and social sustainability in Nordic children’s and young people’s literature.
“The seminars have been hugely important and brought about new forms of collaboration. Also, in connection with the awards ceremony where the winner of the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize has been announced, the authors have had the opportunity to meet each other, get new ideas and collaborate across national borders,” says Kaisa Laaksonen, chair of the adjudication committee from 2021 to 2023, which selects the winners.
She also points out that it’s important for several of the nominated works to be translated into all the Nordic languages – at least the winners.
About the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize
The Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize, which has been awarded since 2013, is one of the Nordic Council’s five prizes. The prize is the result of the long-standing efforts of the Nordic ministers for culture to strengthen and elevate children’s and young people’s literature in the Nordic Region.
The prize is worth DKK 300,000. It’s awarded to a current literary work for children and young people, which stands out in terms of literary and/or illustrative quality. The adjudication committee nominates between 12 and 14 works each spring and the winner is announced at the awards ceremony in connection with the Session of the Nordic Council each autumn.