Astrid Lindgren prize goes to Japan and UK

A Japanese illustrator and an English writer of fantasy share the 2005 Astrid Lindgren prize. The prize is the world's most prestigious award for children's and young people's literature and is named after the world famous Swedish author of the Pippi Longstocking books.

Ryoji Arai is a 49 year old artist from Tokyo who illustrates both his own texts as well as those of other writers. He’s worked on picture books for toddlers, nonsense books and folk tales. His body of work includes ‘Uso tsuki no tsuki’ (The lying moon) and ‘Nazo nazo no tabi’ (A journey of riddles).

His citation read:

“Ryôji Arai (Japan) is an illustrator with a style all of his own: bold, mischievous and unpredictable. His picturebooks glow with warmth, playful good humour and an audacious spontaneity that appeals to children and adults alike. In adventure after adventure, colour flows through his hands in an almost musical way. As a medium for conveying stories to children, his art is at once genuine and truly poetic, encouraging children to paint and to tell their own stories.”

Philip Pullman is a 59 year old writer and academic from Oxford. He’s written in a variety of genres but is best known for his fantasy trilogy ‘His dark materials’.

The international Astrid Lindgren jury described him as a “master story-teller” whose strong characters “stand firmly on the side of young people, ruthlessly questioning authority and proclaiming humanism and the power of love whilst maintaining an optimistic belief in the child even in the darkest of situations.”

In the three ‘Dark materials’ books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) the reader follows the adventures of Lyra and Will in a myriad of parallel universes. The lines between good and evil are constantly blurred as the heroes do battle with the ultimate power – The Authority.

A central theme of the books is the question ‘Who can a child trust?’

The prize was first awarded in 2002, following Astrid Lindgren’s death and is sponsored to the tune of 8.8m kronor by the Swedish government. Lotta Olsson of Dagens Nyheter believes this year’s choices reflect the jury’s concern to establish the prize globally as quickly as possible.

“By giving a share of the prize to the Japanese illustrator, Ryoji Arai, the conscientious jury has ticked off another continent,” she wrote.

“At the same time, they’ve shored up interest in western Europe and North America (which dwindles significantly when writers from other continents are chosen) by awarding the other half of the prize to Britain’s Philip Pullman.”