February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Meg Rosoff Receives Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Stockholm


Photo by Stefan Tell (Creative Commons)

There is a rich history of children’s literature in this country and there are plenty of books and fictional characters who have entered our popular culture and collective consciousness. Yet no American writer has achieved the recognition or reverence of Swede Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002), who was and continues to be the most widely read and universally loved author of children’s books in the world. Pippi Longstocking, Emil, Karlson on the Roof, The Brothers Lionheart, Lotta, the children of Noisy Village, Mardie, and Ronja, and the Robber’s Daughter are among her most memorable creations. Her work has been translated into close to 100 languages.

Yet Lindgren is remembered for more than her creative accomplishments. She was an ardent advocate for peace, children’s rights, and democratic ideals, often speaking out, writing newspaper articles, and supporting legislation for those she felt could not speak for themselves.


Photo by Stefan Tell (Creative Commons)

In 2002, the government of Sweden established the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), with a generous prize of SEK 5 million, to honor her memory. The award is intended to promote interest in children’s and young adult literature around the world and is a crown jewel among literary prizes. Lindgren once said “Good literature gives the child a place in the world and the world a place in the child.”

These words have been the guiding principle behind the ALMA award administered by the Swedish Arts Council, which seeks nominations from around the globe. Previous ALMA laureates include Maurice Sendak, Phillip Pullman, Katherine Paterson, Shaun Tan, and Sonya Hartnett. The 2016 recipient is author Meg Rosoff, who accepted the prize on Monday, May 30, at the packed Stockholm Concert Hall. Best known for her quirky “existential dramas,” Rosoff has written six novels for young adults that deal with teens searching for meaning and identity in the off-kilter, often chaotic world of adults. The jury cited her “one-of-a- kind” novels that “speak to the emotions as well as the intellect” and most memorably embody the spirit of Astrid Lindgren.

In accepting the award, Rosoff spoke about the importance of play and imagination in the lives of children and bemoaned what she described as “an assault on childhood” in the UK, where she lives, which emphasizes testing and information over the arts, music, and books. She quoted Astrid Lindgren in saying that, “Everything great that ever happened in this world happened first in someone’s imagination.”

The tremendous value that Swedish society places on children’s books and on children’s imaginations is validated and reinforced by the librarians, reading initiatives, and cultural institutions that we, as part of an international delegation of media representatives, were introduced to in the days following the ALMA presentation. It was a heady and heartening experience to see the dynamic and positive role that libraries can have in the lives of all children, whether permanent residents or refugees. Here’s a slide show of our travels.

Slide 1
Librarians talk about Bookstart Sweden initiative for the youngest children and
the Silent books project offering materials for refugees through IBBY Sweden.
Slide 2
Popular Swedish author Ulf Stark and his wife Janina Orlov (r.).
Slide 3
Journalist Anita Todorovic from Serbia with Astrid Lindgren's
grandson Johan Palmberg of Saltkrakan AB.
Slide 4
The writing desk in Astrid Lindgren's study.
Slide 5
Astrid Lindgren statue outside the Junibacken children's museum.
Slide 6
The stroller parking lot before opening hours at the Kulturhuset.
Slide 7
Asa Forss (l.) from the Swedish Institute with members
of the international media delegation.
Slide 8
A listening chair in the Room for Children at Kulturhuset.
Slide 9
The kitchen lending library for children 10–13 at the Kulturhuset.
Slide 10
The teen library and lab at the Kulturhuset.
Slide 11
Attending the award gala at the Stockholm Concert Hall.


Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

Do you want to ensure that your library’s collections are diverse, equitable, inclusive, and well-read?

Do you want to become a more culturally literate librarian and a more effective advocate for your community?

We've developed a foundational online course—with live sessions on February 28 & March 14—that will explore key concepts essential to cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections.