It does your heart good to know that there are governments in the world who value children. The government of Sweden is one of those outstanding institutions that have put their money where their mouth is by having established the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awards.
I had the honor of being one of three journalists from the entire world, the only one from the United States, to be officially invited by the Stockholm Visitors Board, to cover the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awards as well as the Polar Music Prize Click here to go to the Polar Music Prize article.
. I had the additional honor and privilege to discover more about the amazing Astrid Lindgren by taking a tour of her private apartment, and speaking with her daughter. To read more on this awe inspiring woman and her works Click here to go to that article.
The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award or the ALMA was established in 2002 by the Swedish Government to honor the memory of its most famous and beloved children's book author Astrid Lindgren. Not only authors are eligible for the award. Illustrators, story-tellers and people or organizations that make valuable contributions to the promotion of reading can also be recognized. The award is for life-long work or artistry rather than for individual pieces. It aims to increase global interest in literature for children and young adults.
Astrid Lindgren was very committed to children's rights and always spoke out on their behalf. Therefore, the prize is also aimed at promoting children's rights at a global level, in keeping with Astrid Lindgren's humanistic beliefs. The prize is also a signal to institutions and organizations around the world that good children's and youth literature is worth millions, and our children are worth more than millions. The award is the world's largest monetary award for children's and youth literature and the second-largest literature prize in the world, in the sum of five million SEK (approx. 700,000 dollars.) The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award is administered by the Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs.
The first ever Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was given out in 2003 and was shared by authors Christine Nöstlinger from Austria and Maurice Sendak from the United States. This year's recipient is one of Brazil's best-known children's authors the gifted Lygia Bojunga. Her work is well loved and has been translated into a number of languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Bulgarian, Czech and Hebrew. She has won a number of awards, including the Jabuti Award (1973), the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award (1982), and the Rattenfänger Literaturpreis (1986). Currently the books, My Friend the Painter; the story of ten year old Claudio and his struggles to understand the suicide of his neighbor, and The Companions; the story of a scared young rabbit, left to fend for himself, are her only works which are translated into English.
Lygia Bojunga in Brazil Photo: Douglas Engle
Bojunga was born in Pelotas in 1932, and grew up on a farm. At the age of eight she moved to Rio. She was an actress at age 7, and in 1951 she became joined a theatre group that toured the rural areas of Brazil. Her reaction to the widespread illiteracy she encountered prompted her to become one of the founders of a school for poor rural children which she helped to run for five years. She spent a long time working in radio and television before making her debut as a children's writer in 1972.
As with Astrid Lindgren, the child's point of view is always paramount in Bojunga's texts. She views the world with the imaginative gaze of a child at play. Here, everything is possible: her principal characters can conjure up a horse they can ride away on, or draw a door on the wall which they can walk through just moments later. Fantasy often functions as a way of dealing with distressing personal experiences.
Truly multi talented, in addition to acting and writing, she has been involved with graphic design and has her own publishing house. These talents have allowed her to have a deep impact on Brazilian literature. Admitting a love and need to have control, she steers her books through the entire process from conception and writing, to working with the illustrations and graphics and finally the involvement of the marketing aspects. She is therefore able to produce books that are inexpensive, beautiful to look at and entertaining to read. Her books are filled with enchantment and magic. She creates worlds where desires grow so heavy one literally can't lift them, safety pins and umbrellas talk, and the lives of animals are as varied and vulnerable as human beings.
She subtly touches on universal issues of sorrow and happiness, loneliness and independence, insecurities and adventure, passion and imagination, and death and healing. Writing in a voice that is easily assessable to all children, honoring their intelligence, as well as showing empathy and understanding of what it means to be a child today. Bojunga began her writing in Brazil when dictatorship was still present. A bit of a subversive, she would incorporate her passion for democracy and social justice into her stories stating that "generals don't read children's books."
Lygia Bojunga Photo: Douglas Engle
Beautiful, glowing with a hot inner fire, Bojunga is 71 years old yet looks like she is 57. She states that "her life opened up" after she turned 40. Life affirming and supportive, she nurtured a female journalist during our interview period telling her how there is so much to look forward to in life, and that the best is ahead of her. She also stated that the "glamour of youth is a large problem" and she feels that "we live in a false consumer oriented society".
You never know when the impact of a small act or deed can change an entire life. This is the case with Bojunga, when, at seven years old, her Uncle Fredo, a dentist, gave her a book by Monteiro Lobato.
Lygia Bojunga at home Photo: Douglas Engle
It turned out that it had a character in it, a rag doll named Emilia, who became Bojunga's first love. The love of a character in a book turned into a love of books and later inspired her to become a writer. Today 64 years later she is a multi prize winning author with her own publishing company. Who knows how many more lives have been touched through her writing and all because of a gift of a book from her uncle. She shared with me that writing is a privilege for her and said, "Books have given me so much." In return she loves to hear how a book of hers has touched or changed a child's life.
H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria, Lygia Bojunga, Lill Lindfors
When Bojunga heard that she had won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, she was thrilled and felt it was all the more special in that ALMA (the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award) translates into the word soul in Portuguese. She intends to share her prize money with the youth of her country. In an interview for ALMA she stated that "For a long time I've wanted to create a Foundation for the development of cultural projects related to books, aimed principally at disadvantaged children and young people. I hoped the Publishing House I launched in 2002 for my characters would eventually assist me in creating the Foundation: Sweden, anticipating my needs, has provided the means for the realization of my dreams. Again I thank you."
A road at the Open Air Museum at Skansen
The annual prize-giving ceremony was held in Stockholm on the 26th of May at the Open Air Museum at Skansen. This museum is the oldest open air museum in the world. I was taken there with the other journalist, a very nice German woman, and we were given a tour by Maria Ehn Notrica the head of Communications at Stockholm Visitors Board.
Skansen is the first open-air museum in the world and is also a zoological park specializing mainly in Nordic fauna. It is located on the island of Djurgården, a royal park near the centre of Stockholm. Skansen was founded in 1891 by Arthur Hazelius (1833-1901) for the purpose of showing how people had lived and worked in different parts of Sweden in times gone by.
Actual homes from the 18th and 19th century
Over the years about 150 historic buildings have been moved there from nearly every part of Sweden. Most of them date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors to the houses and farmsteads are met by hosts and hostesses in period costume. They often demonstrate domestic occupations, such as weaving and spinning. The houses were fascinating and in magnificent condition but I enjoyed seeing the animals the most. They are kept in large beautiful natural habitats free to roam and run and hide.
Mama Moose and Newborn Calf
I had never before seen a live Moose and certainly had never seen newly born Moose calves.
Bear easily climbing a tree
The bears were great and I never had seen one climb a tree. Let me tell you if you ever expect to get away from a bear by climbing a tree, forget about it, they climb trees real fast! Click here to see one coming down from a tree. We had about two hours to tour the grounds and it was beautiful and fascinating. You could easily spend a full day there and children would love it and find it very educational. After we had seen the Moose, we saw the bears, the foxes, the lynx, the wolves, the wild boars and there was lots more to see but we had to get to the actual ceremony after a quick ice cream bar.
The ceremony took place at the outdoor theater and was open to the public. The ceremony opened with dancers from the Royal Swedish Ballet which was followed by a song with lyrics by Astrid Lindgren performed by Magnus Lindgren, various speakers and dignitaries including the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. There was an exert of A bolsa amarela, a book by Lygia Bojunga who was then introduced by the Swedish Minister of Culture Marita Ulvskog.
H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria and Lygia Bojunga
Then the elegant, beautiful H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria presented the award to Lygia Bojunga, who then gave her acceptance speech followed by a song with lyrics by Astrid Lindgren. Next there was a speech by Gilberto Gil, not only the Brazilian Minister of Culture but a huge celebrity in his own right as one of the most important singers, composers and instrumentalists of modern Brazilian pop music. Bojunga was then interview by Stina Lundberg and gave great answers.
Lill Lindfors, Gilberto Gil
The closing ceremony was next by Lill Lindfors the Master of Ceremonies, one of the most beloved celebrities in Scandinavia asked Gil to join her in a closing song, and he did, there he was the Minister of Culture singing and grooving with Lindfors, Now imagine that happening anywhere else in the world.
I left Stockholm the next day with a much greater appreciation for a very special woman, Astrid Lindgren, her life, her accomplishments, and her philosophies. I learned about Lygia Bojunga, an author that I had never heard of before, and learned about her life and philosophy, and I look forward to her having more books translated into English. I saw more of beautiful Sweden and look forward to seeing more. And as with all my trips to Sweden, the people couldn't have been more friendly or helpful.
Click here for more information on ALMA.
All recordings were made using the Sony ICD BM1 Digital Voice Recorder Click here to go to my review of the Sony ICD-BM1 Digital Voice Recorder.
Most of the photographs were taken using: the Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom Digital Camera Click here to go to my review of the Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom Digital Camera
and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V1 Digital Camera Click here to go to my review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V1 Digital Camera.