Bart Moeyaert, the Flemish author of books for children and young adults, has been awarded this year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award on his 16th nomination. The award commemorates the Swedish author of the Pippi Longstocking novels and picture books, and is awarded annually to writers of books for children. It was inaugurated by the Swedish government in 2002, the year Lindgren died. Commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize for children’s literature, it has previously been won by Maurice Sendak, Phillip Pullman and Shaun Tan.
Bart Moeyaert was born in Bruges in 1964, the seventh of seven sons, and as such his godfather was the late King Baudouin, in Dutch Boudewijn, for whom he is named.
He published his first book in 1983, and since then has been showered with awards, and his work translated into many languages. He also writes poetry, and was the city poet of Antwerp from 2006 to 2008.
Moeyaert takes the award on his 16th nomination, and with it a cash prize of 480,000 euros, which he says will buy him the time to work on his next book. The prize, he told the VRT, also gives him an international voice, and recognition for decades of work.
“Hallelujah,” he said, on receiving the phone call while at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna. “They’ve noticed what I’ve been doing for 35 years. At last I get a voice, a platform, because I have a lot to say. I have a lot to say about Dutch and about books in school, for example.”
The award came as a surprise, despite 15 years of being the bridesmaid, never the bride.
“You’ve known for years that the winner is informed about three hours in advance on the morning of the announcement,” he said. You sit by the phone but don’t really believe it will happen. And this morning, just as you’ve given up expecting it, the phone rings from Sweden, and you think ‘manmanman’. Very strange, for ten minutes or so.”