A Quick Look at the Largest Cash Prize for Children's Literature in the World

Have you noticed that American currency is really boring? The olive-green color scheme is drab and uninspiring. And, with all due respect to, say, Alexander Hamilton, the faces have gotten pretty stale over the years.

Contrast our sad state of affairs to that of the Swedes. Their banknotes contain the faces of Greta Garbo (100 kronor), Ingmar Bergman (200 kronor), and Astrid Lindgren (20 kronor), the children's writer who passed away in 2002 and whose memorial award represents the largest cash prize in children's literature. 

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award goes to work "of the highest artistic quality" featuring the "humanistic values" of Lindgren, who among other works, penned the Pippi Longstocking series. The winner of this year's prize is the U.S.-born, London-based writer Meg Rosoff, whose seven young adult novels "speak to the emotions as well as the intellect," according to the award's jury. 

Oh, and did we mention the prize is $5 million krona — or roughly $613,000? It's true, putting the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award firmly in the "It's Actually About the Money" category of writing awards.

"Like Astrid Lindgren, Rosoff empathizes completely with young people and is utterly loyal to them," the jury continued. "The adult world, when it appears, remains on the periphery. She uses concrete, vibrant language, whether she is describing a landscape, a piece of clothing, or the groceries in the pantry. She infuses darkness with humour to produce stylistic masterpieces." 

We've profiled some other children's literature awards recently here on IP, and each one has its own aesthetic guiding principle. The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, for example, awards grants to writers whose work reflects society's racial and ethnic diversity. The Maurice Sendak Foundation, meanwhile, recognizes illustrators whose work — and we're quoting Sendak himself here — "is like dance; it should move like — and to — music." 

And so the Lindgren award holds true to those aforementioned "humanistic" values of its namesake. "We’re looking for a writer with the humanistic values of Astrid Lindgren," said chair of the jury Boel Westin. Rosoff "has respect for her protagonists and for her readers, she’s discussing how the world can change, but she also gives hope, which I think is important."

We admit we've been listening to too many Bernie Sanders speeches extolling the virtues of Scandinavia, but that frigid utopia is looking better all the time. Never mind the nationalized health care; their cool currency and the largest children's literature prize in the world are worth the price of admission alone.