German author-illustrator Rotraut Susanne Berner and Chinese author Cao Wenxuan are the winners of the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration and writing, respectively. Patricia Saldana, chair of the award jury, announced the winners Monday afternoon during the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on behalf of IBBY, the International Board on Books for Young People. This is the 60th anniversary of the prestigious international children’s book award, which is presented biennially. “We’re so lucky to have the winners here,” said Saldana as Berner and Cao took the stage. “It’s so unlikely.” Both will be presented with their medals later this year during the 35th IBBY Congress, to be held in New Zealand.
Berner’s recent books for children include Hound and Hare (2011), Definitely Not for Little Ones: Some Very Grimm Fairy-tale Comics (2009), and The Winter Book (2008), all published by Groundwood. “Her books can be hilariously funny, and equally deeply moving. And she doesn’t fear showing life’s dark moments,” read the award announcement.” Incidentally, Germany is the Guest of Honor at this year’s fair, though Saldana stressed that this was coincidental.
In announcing Cao as the winner of the Andersen Award for writing, the IBBY jury said that he “writes beautifully about the complex lives of children facing great challenges. He is a deeply committed writer, whose own difficult childhood has been deeply influential on his writing in which there are no easy answers.” His most recent book, Bronze and Sunflower, is set during China’s Cultural Revolution, and was published in the U.K. in 2015 by Walker Books. An earlier work, The Straw House, was published in the U.S. in 2006 by Long River Press.
During the IBBY press conference, the winners of the 2016 IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award were also announced. This year’s awards went to Read with Me, an Iranian organization working to make books available to disadvantaged children in that country; and to Big Brother Mouse, a Laos-based organization that publishes books in both Lao and English to encourage reading and combat illiteracy.