Monday, May 30, 2005

Children's book prizes

How richly should we reward high achievement in children's writing? Even Philip Pullman, that matchless inventor of parallel worlds, might think twice about devising an imaginary kingdom that endowed an annual prize for young people's literature worth a cool £385,000 - from the public coffers - to the winner. The lucky author collects this fairy-tale crock of gold from a genuine princess and caps a week of official festivities with a lecture in the nation's parliament.

As it happens, Pullman has merely shared this year's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, founded and funded by the Swedish state in tribute to the creator of Pippi Longstocking and the values that her books uphold. The enormous cheque, and the dazzling limelight of this week's jamboree in Stockholm, has been split between the fabricator of His Dark Materials and the Japanese illustrator RyƓji Arai. All the same, Sweden's generosity has a truly folkloric aspect, down to Wednesday's meeting with the Crown Princess - who arrived, one trusts, in a glass coach drawn by white mice - and the mythically round sum (five million crowns) of the award itself.
More on children's books prizes from Boyd Tonkin in The Independent.

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