The Klaus Flugge Prize at Five

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Andrea Reece of the Klaus Flugge Prize celebrates the award in its fifth year, and how much it says about the importance of picture book illustration.

The winner of the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize has just been announced and it is Eva Eland for her book When Sadness Comes to Call, published by Andersen Press.  In the words of judge, 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize winner Jessica Love, the book has ‘the kind of simplicity that feels inevitable … as though it has always been there.’  She praised the book too for the feelings of recognition it evokes again and again and which ‘add up to the ultimate miracle of storytelling, which is to make the reader feel they are not alone in the world’. It is, she says, ‘a perfect book.’

This year the award ceremony took the form of a special broadcast, featuring contributions from judge Mini Grey and chair of the prize Julia Eccleshare as well as Jessica Love and Eva Eland. Normally – this is the fifth year of the prize – the announcement would have been celebrated with a party hosted by Klaus Flugge himself, enthusiastic and ebullient as always, glass in hand! So much has changed this year though, and indeed, our ‘new normal’ serves only to underline how When Sadness Comes to Call feels like the perfect book for our time. In the story, a young child opens the door to an unexpected guest, Sadness, personified as a large, green, misty blob. As they spend time together, the two almost become one and by welcoming Sadness in, the child finds things they can do together, and ways to be happy. At a time when many children will be suffering sadness for no reason they can explain, and others will be sad at the loss of someone or something very important, Eland’s book will prove extraordinarily helpful.

Look back at the history of the award and you can see the Klaus Flugge Prize judges have made a habit of choosing books that will start conversations: in 2017 Francesca Sanna won the prize with her book The Journey and in 2018, it went to Kate Milner for My Name is Not Refugee. Though very different in style and technique, both of these books detail and explain the refugee experience for young children; while Jessica Love’s 2019 winner, Julian is a Mermaid, is a joyful, positive story that adroitly questions gender stereotypes.

Set up to highlight the best and most exciting new picture book illustrators and to give them a crucial boost at the start of their careers, it is becoming clear that the Klaus Flugge Prize, by putting these picture books in the spotlight, is doing even more. As chair of the prize Julia Eccleshare maintains, picture books provide children with the first images they see outside of their own home and lives,  and the stories they discover therein will provide them with a map to the landscape in which they are growing up, visually yes, but emotionally too. This year has demonstrated to all of us how quickly narratives can change, and how urgently we need new stories to enable us to navigate our times. Jessica Love’s description of When Sadness Comes to Call as ‘a perfect book’, feels even more right.

We are already looking forward to considering the books that will form the longlist for the 2021 Klaus Flugge Prize, when Eva Eland will be one of our judges. As we mark the fifth year of the prize he founded too, we’d like to suggest that everyone raises a glass to the indomitable Klaus Flugge, whose publishing at Andersen Press has done so much to shape all our lives and the way we understand our world. 

The complete shortlist for the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize is as follows. Sabina Radeva was awarded Highly Commended for her book On the Origin of Species.

When Sadness Comes to Call, Eva Eland (Andersen Press)
The Star in the Forest, Helen Kellock (Thames & Hudson)
Where is Your Sister?, Puck Koper (Two Hoots)
On the Origin of Species, Sabina Radeva (Puffin)
One Fox: A Counting Thriller Book, Kate Read (Two Hoots)

Alongside Mini Grey and Jessica Love, the judges are Meera Ghanshamdas, bookseller at Moon Lane Ink; children’s book consultant Jake Hope; and Pam Smy of Anglia Ruskin University.

Any opinions expressed may not truly represent those of the FCBG.

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