By Khalifa Hemed
Published April 27,2017
The artist, 69-year-old Wolf Erlbruch who has written some 10 books of his own and illustrated nearly 50 titles by other authors , won the 15th annual Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) on April 4, 2017.
The jury described Erlbruch as “a master of the illustrator’s art who honours tradition whilst opening new creative doors”, praising him for making “existential questions accessible and manageable for readers of all ages.”
Erlbruch’s work is described as being informed by “a long tradition”, combining “collage, pencil and chalk drawing, graphic experimentation and watercolour.” He seems to like animals as they frequently feature in his stories: The Miracle of the Bears (2006) and The Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest (2016).
According to a blog by ALMA, Erlbruch made his debut in 1985 with the illustrations for James Aggrey’s The Eagle That Would Not Fly. His first major success came five years later with The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business, with text by Werner Holzwarth – a book about an angry little mole who gets poop on his head and sets out to track down the guilty party.
Wolf Erlbruch often embarks on existential journeys, posing important questions about the meaning of life and death with both humour and clarity. Duck, Death and the Tulip (2008), a tender story in which little Duck gets a visit from Death, has been hailed as a modern classic and often described as the most beautiful book ever published about death. A simple and refined meditation on the nature of life and the omnipresence of death, it speaks to children and adults alike. One of the most controversial titles that Erlbruch has illustrated is L’ogresse en pleurs (1996), with text by Valérie Dayre. On its face a dark fairy tale about a woman who wants to devour a child, the book takes a deep look at difficult and important issues in the parent-child relationship, such as symbiosis and freedom, love and the fear of loss.
Wolf Erlbruch, whose other awards include the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for his complete works, shall receive the SEK 5 million (570000 Euro) ALMA that is billed as being the largest prize for children and youth literature on May 29, 2017.
Previous winners of ALMA that is administered by the Swedish Film Institute include laureates Meg Rosoff (2016); PRAESA (2015); Barbro Lindgren (2014); Isol (2013); Guus Kuijer (2012); Shaun Tan (2011); Kitty Crowther (2010); Tamerinstitutet (2009); Sonya Hartnett (2008); Banco del Libro (2007); Katherine Paterson (2006); shared)Lygia Bojunga (2004) and Christine Nöstlinger & Maurice Sendak (2003).