Books

South Korea's Baek Heena wins $700K Astrid Lindgren Award, the world's richest children's literature prize

The annual international literary award recognizes authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters in children's and youth literature.
Baek Heena is a South Korean children's book author and illustrator. (Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award)

South Korean author-illustrator Baek Heena has won the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world's largest international children's and young adult book award.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, worth SEK 5 million (approx. $712,289 Cdn), recognizes authors, illustrators, oral storytellers and reading promoters in children's literature.

It is presented to a single laureate or to several, regardless of language or nationality.

Born in Seoul, Heena is one of Korea's most acclaimed picture book authors. She has published 13 titles.

"In her evocative miniature worlds, cloud bread and sorbet moons, animals, bath fairies and people converge," the jury citation read. "Her work is a doorway to the marvellous: sensuous, dizzying and sharp." 

Cloud Bread, published in English in 2011, is one of her most popular titles.

Her other books include Little Chick Pee-yaki's Mum, Magic Candies, Moon Sherbet, The Strange Visitor and Bath Fairy.

Her books are not available in Canada.

This year's list of nominees featured creators from around the world. Canadian authors Deborah Ellis, Marie-Francine Hébert, Uma Krishnaswami, Jon Klassen and illustrator Nahid Kazemi were among them.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was established by the Swedish government in 2002 to honour Swedish children's writer Astrid Lindgren.

The award, administered by the Swedish Arts Council, was announced from Lindgren's home in Stockholm on March 31, 2020.

Lindgren is best known for being the creator of Pippi Longstocking. Her other books include the Six Bullerby Children series and the novels Mio, My Son and The Brothers Lionheart. She died in 2002.

In past years, the announcement was livestreamed at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, which was cancelled this year.

The award ceremony for the prize was supposed to be on June 1, but has been postponed because of COVID-19.

Past recipients of the prize include Maurice Sendak, Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Woodson.

No Canadians have ever won.

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