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Top children's literature prize goes to Jacqueline Woodson

March 27, 2018

The American author beat out 235 other candidates to become the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award laureate for 2018. Woodson has written many works for children that explore racism, economic injustice and sexual identity.

Woodson's face on a big screen as the award is announced
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Wiklund

Best known for her award-winning autobiographical novel, "Brown Girl Dreaming" (2014), Jacqueline Woodson has been awarded the world's largest prize for children's and young adult literature at a ceremony in Stockholm. Worth 5 million Swedish Kroners (€490,000, $607,000), the award is given annually to a single laureate or to several from among global authors, illustrators and oral storytellers.

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Born in 1963 and residing today in Brooklyn, New York, Woodson is the author of more than thirty books, including novels, poetry and picture books. She writes primarily for young teens but also for children and adults.

"Jacqueline Woodson introduces us to resilient young people fighting to find a place where their lives can take root," the citation of the award jury read. "In language as light as air, she tells stories of resounding richness and depth.”

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Presenting tough topics to children

US author Jacqueline Woodson holding up a placard
Jacqueline Woodson at a rally in support of free speech held on the steps of the New York Public Library on January 15, 2017Image: Imago/Zumapress

Woodson often writes about teens making the transition from childhood to adult life. Her books are written in the first person, usually from a female point of view. Racism, social exclusion, prejudice and sexual identity are all recurring themes.

"It's important to hold up mirrors for kids to see their experience is legitimate. Too often those mirrors aren't there for them,” Woodson said about her work. This commitment caused her to be named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in the US this January.

The  Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award seeks to promote the ideals laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The prize is named after the beloved Swedish author best-known for the children's classic, "Pippi Longstockings."

For this year's award, 235 candidates from 60 countries were nominated. In 2017, the German illustrator Wolf Erlbruch received the award for his ability to "make existential questions accessible and manageable for readers of all ages."

Previous laureates include Meg Rosoff (2016), Philip Pullman (2005), Kitty Crowther (2010), Barbro Lindgren (2014) and Shaun Tan (2011). In its inaugural year of 2003, the award was won by Maurice Sendak for his 1963 classic, "Where the Wild Things Are" and by Austrian author Christine Nöstlinger. 

Stuart Braun | DW Reporter
Stuart Braun Berlin-based journalist with a focus on climate and culture.