British authors including Quentin Blake, Neil Gaiman and Shirley Hughes are among a host of contenders in the running for the worldâ€™s richest prize for childrenâ€™s literature, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial award.
Worth SEK5m (Â£400,000), the prize is intended to promote interest in childrenâ€™s and young adult literature, and can go to a single author, illustrator or oral storyteller, or to an organisation or individual active in promoting reading. This year, it was won by the South African organisation PRAESA, which has encouraged young people to read since 1992; in the past it has gone to names from Maurice Sendak to Philip Pullman.
Two hundred and fifteen candidates have been nominated by institutions and organisations from around the world for 2016â€™s award. The UK has garnered 21 spots. As well as Blake, Gaiman and Hughes, some of its bestselling and most acclaimed writers and illustrators are in the running, from young adult award-winners Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff and Jacqueline Wilson, to illustrators and authors Oliver Jeffers and Raymond Briggs, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, and Allan Ahlberg.
The nominees were announced at the Frankfurt book fair on Thursday, with a jury set to work through candidates and select their winner. â€œI hope the nominee list will be an active reference for literacy promoters and educators around the world as they seek out the most outstanding contemporary literature for children and young adults,â€ said jury chair Boel Westin. â€œThe jury now has the hard but very pleasant and rewarding job of finding one or more laureates for 2016. We have meetings once a month and between meetings we read piles of books and documents.â€
From the US, The Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle, the science fiction and fantasy novelist Ursula Le Guin and the Newbery medal-winner Lois Lowry are among the nominees for next yearâ€™s prize. A selection of writers and organisations spanning 59 countries includes Hairy Maclary creator Lynley Dodd, from New Zealand, Irish novelist Eoin Colfer, Marjane Satrapi, the Iranian-born author of the graphic novel Persepolis, as well as candidates from Korea, Malta and China.
The winner of the award, which was set up by the Swedish government in honour of Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren, who died in 2002, will be announced on 5 April next year. Organisers said that Lindgren â€œrenewed childrenâ€™s literature and combined artistic integrity with commitment to the rights of children and young peopleâ€. The awardâ€™s considerable prize, the they added, both â€œindicates that reading by children and young adults is extremely importantâ€, and is â€œintended to inspire anyone involved in childrenâ€™s literatureâ€.