By Ogova Ondego
Published October 17, 2015
Some 215 candidates from 59 countries are running for the world’s largest children’s literature award in 2016.
The list of the nominees–drawn from among authors, illustrators, storytellers and child literacy promoters–was announced during the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany on October 15, 2015.
“We are deeply impressed by the work of the nominating bodies in proposing qualified candidates for ALMA,” said Boel Westin, chair of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) 2016. “I 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.”
The list of nominees was said to have been proposed by 111 nominating bodies worldwide. While many of these bodies chose to re-nominate previous candidates, it was announced, the list for 2016 also includes 42 new names that could have been proposed mainly by the New nominating countries–China, Nicaragua, Palestine, Austria, and the United Arab Emirates–in 2016.
But the list does not seem to sit well with critics of the Five Million Swedish Kronas, SEK5 Million (about US$6 Million) prize.
Players in children’s literature initiatives in Kenya, for instance, have faulted the country’s ALMA-nominating bodies; Kenya Literature Bureau and National Book Development Council of Kenya. They accuse the two bodies of either being ignorant of the various literature projects for children and youth in the country or of not living up to expectation. Do Kenya’s ministries of Culture, Devolution, and Education, for example, know about ALMA and the role of governments in the promotion of literature for children and youth?
Though ALMA says “Nominating bodies are chosen for their in-depth knowledge about children’s and young adult literature either globally or in a specific geographical or cultural context,” critics are not convinced that either Kenya Literature Bureau or National Book Development Council of Kenya has ‘in-depth knowledge about children’s and young adult literature’ in Kenya or in East Africa that has no single nominee in 2016. It is time, they contend, the two organisations were replaced by what they term as more competent bodies. Or could it be that Kenya and East Africa do not promote literature for children or their efforts are wanting and not worth of international attention and recognition?
Besides Nominating Bodies, ALMA says the Jury and previous laureates also have the right to suggest candidates. However, ALMA cautions, “No groups or individuals may apply or nominate themselves.”
While “Only nominating bodies approved by the jury, previous laureates and the jury are entitled to propose candidates,” only work “of the highest artistic quality characterised by the human values that Astrid Lindgren treasured” are eligible for nomination. “The entire work, not an individual piece” of individuals and “institutions working with reading promotion for children and young adults” is eligible for ALMA nomination, ALMA says.
Each nominating body is entitled to nominate a maximum of four candidates: two candidates in the category of writing/illustrating/storytelling/promotion of reading from the nominating body’s own country; and two candidates in the category of writing/illustrating/storytelling/promotion of reading from a different country.
Nominating organisations are selected on the basis of their “good knowledge of authors, illustrators, storytellers and activities that encourage reading in their countries or regions,” ALMA says. “Nominating bodies can be international, national or regional organisations such as research institutes connected to children’s literature and projects to encourage reading, children’s book institutes, author and illustrator organisations, children’s departments and literary centres at national libraries. Ministries for culture or their equivalents are invited to make nominations in areas where reading promoting organisations do not exist.”
African countries that nominated candidates for ALMA 2016 include Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.
“The 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,” Westin said.
ALMA says the winner of the 2016 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award will be announced in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, and Bologna Book Fair in Italy, after the juryâ€™s final meeting on April 5, 2016.
Founded by the Government of Sweden in 2002 and administrated by the Swedish Arts Council, this UN convention of rights of the child-guided ALMA ‘is designed to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature.’
Previous winners of ALMA include Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), South Africa (2015); Barbro Lindgren, Sweden (2014); Isol, Argentina (2013); Guus Kuijer, Netherlands (2012); Shaun Tan, Australia (2011); Kitty Crowther, Belgium (2010); The Tamer Institute, Palestinian Territories (2009); Sonya Hartnett, Australia (2008); Banco del Libro, Venezuela (2007); Katherine Paterson, USA (2006); Ry´ji Arai, Japan, and Philip Pullman, United Kingdom (2005); Lygia Bojunga, Brazil (2004); and Christine Nstlinger, Austria, and Maurice Sendak, USA (2003).