Winner of the 2020 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize

Jens Mattsson & Jenny Lucander
Jose Figueroa & Niklas Sandström
The 2020 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize goes to “Vi är lajon!” by author Jens Mattsson from Sweden and illustrator Jenny Lucander from Finland.


This year’s winning book is undeniably on the side of the child, with a child’s perspective permeating both the text and the pictures. Play serves as the ultimate healer in the most difficult of times, such as when a young child becomes terminally ill. The make-believe savannah with its vibrant orange colours penetrates the bleak world of the hospital. The disorderly game contains all the sorrow and anxiety triggered by the disease. The pictures, decorative elements, and colouration cockily enter into the dialogue of such traditional Nordic picture books as those of Ingrid Vang Nyman and Tove Jansson, but with a completely new expression full of original perspectives, line drawings, colour choices, and character design. The style of the text echoes this approach, with its clever self perspective coloured by the grandiloquence of the game. The portrayal of the parents’ care and despair is the work’s points of pain and rest. The brotherly love and courageous end to the book in turn suggest that a new Nangijala exists. The work is a Nordic collaboration of the highest calibre, deeply moving and open to readers of all ages.