Finnish writer wins kids’ literature award for teen novel

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Henrika Andersson, the beloved author-actress from Finland has accepted the Jānis Baltvilks International Prize in Children’s Literature and Book Art, reports LSM Friday.

The award, named in honor of and presented on the birthday of one of Latvia’s best-known authors of children’s books, has been given out by the Latvian Council of Literature since 2003.  

In an interview with Latvian Radio (LR) culture program Kultūras Rondo, the author and her Latvian translator Mudīte Treimane spoke about the teenage novel “Emma Gloria and the Red Book of Longing”, which earned Andersson the Baltvilks prize this year.

The book is the second in a trilogy of novels written from the author’s own experience, “Later the story comes of its own accord,” Andersson explains, adding that the mother-daughter relationship is not autobiographical, however.

“I scoop inspiration on teenage life from young people I meet and from my own kids,” she said.

Being a reluctant reader as a child, and dead-set against following in both of her parents’ footsteps as a writer, Henrika Andersson insisted on taking books from the library rather than reading her parents’ copies at home when she finally caught the literary bug at a late age.

“When you’re young, you want to read whatever is ‘against’, like in protest,” the writer commented on the often-discussed problem kids have with reading. “Nobody wants to read just because someone said it was a good and useful thing to do. You want to read what you want to read. We must keep this in mind when talking about how to get young people to read,” she said.

She deemed the teenage years as “very hard.” Writing about them is hard, too, Anderson believes, because first you have to look hard at yourself in the mirror.

“The Red Book of Longing” is the best of the Emma Gloria series, translator Mudīte Treimane told Kultūras Rondo.

The Baltvilks award for children’s literature was also awarded Thursday to Māris Rungulis for his kids’ detective story “The Riddles of Fox Hill”.  Rungulis’ story transpires along two parallel timelines, as two boys in 1950’s Soviet Latvia seek a tamed buck lost in the woods that leads them to an abandoned guerilla bunker left over from Latvia’s forest partisans who had resisted the Red Army’s occupation. The parallel timeline takes place twelve years earlier while the outlaw woodsmen are still operating in the deep underground. With the help of their grandmother the boys try to dig up the true story of the partisans past.

Artist Gundega Muzikante also received this year’s Baltvilks award for her illustrations of three children’s books by Inese Zandere, Ieva Samauska and Aivars Neibarts, respectively.

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