Tan responded in surprise when he was informed that he had won the award today.
“I knew I was on the list, but I never expected to win. My first thought was – what does it mean!? This news will take time to digest,” he said according to an official statement.
The Astrid Lindgren Award was created in 2002 upon the death of world-renowned Swedish children’s author, perhaps best known for penning the enormously popular Pippi Longstocking novels. It is administered by the Swedish Arts Council.
At 5 million kronor ($787,000), it is the largest prize for children’s and young adult literature in the world, and is intended to spark global interest in the field.
Shaun Tan, who was born in 1974 in Western Australia to a Chinese immigrant father and Australian mother, becomes the 11th writer to win the prestigious award.
Tan, who graduated from the University of WA in 1995 with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature, has illustrated and/or authored some 20 picture books, which have been translated into 11 different languages.
He has furthermore worked on various adaptations of his work from print form and also creates fine art and murals.
Having grown up as somewhat of an outsider as a child, many of Tan’s books explore themes of difference and not fitting in. His work often deals with serious themes and magical realist depictions, which are then presented in ways which relate to children.
He is best known for his 2006 book “The Arrival”, a five-year project about an emigrant family that features black-and-white drawings of things both foreign and familiar to readers in the form of a worn photography album.
His most recent work, 2008’s “Tales from Outer Suburbia,” is an anthology of stories based on his experiences growing up in the suburbs of Perth.
In addition, his 2000 book, “The Lost Thing,”– a surrealist work that explores issues of identity and alienation– has been adapted for stage several times and won the Oscar for best animated short film at the 2011 Academy Awards.
In winning the award, Tan joins other such notable children’s and youth literature writers as “His Dark Materials” trilogy author Philip Pullman and “Where the Wild Things Are” author and illustrator Maurice Sendak.
Tan, who currently lives in Melbourne with his Finnish wife, will be presented the award in a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall on Tuesday, May 31st.
By Anita Badejo