Jessica Love has won the 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration.
She won for Julian is a Mermaid published by Walker Books.
The book tells a joyful, positive story that adroitly questions gender stereotype. Tt has been described as ‘barrier- breaking’ and was also shortlisted for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal.
Judge and former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne says: “Julian is a Mermaid is an astonishingly beautiful book. It’s amazing to realise this is Jessica Love’s first attempt. She has quickly realised how picture books work – the understated words fit so brilliantly with the stunning illustrations, never getting in the way, never trying to do the same job. It’s a perfect picture book.”
Fellow judge Farrah Serroukh, of CLPE adds: “The illustrations say things that it would be difficult for words alone to express. The layers of meaning that can be inferred through each spread are rich, sophisticated and plentiful. Quite simply, it is a stunningly beautiful, heart-warming debut.”
Julian is a Mermaid was partly inspired by a trans friend. “It got me curious about what sort of literature there was out there for families looking to have conversations with their children about identity, and how sometimes a person has to do a little more work to create the proper cover for their own book. I wanted to make something that didn’t feel didactic but that gave children a chance to experience this character’s inner life and identify with it. I wanted to give kids who identify with Julian a chance to see themselves reflected, but I also wanted kids who don’t identify with him a chance to get inside his experience and feel what it might be like.”
The Klaus Flugge Prize was founded to honour publisher Klaus Flugge, a supremely influential figure in picture books. Flugge set up Andersen Press in 1976 and has discovered and nurtured many of today’s most distinguished illustrators including David McKee, Tony Ross, Satoshi Kitamura, Ruth Brown and Susan Varley.
Prior to the presentation Klaus gave a splendid speech outlining his reasons for establishing the prize, mentioning its precursors, the Tom Maschler and Mother Goose awards. You can see clips from this speech on the ACHUKAbooks Instagram,
Chair of the judges, Julia Eccleshare said: “In the fourth year of the award, we had another extremely strong shortlist but the judges were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to Jessica Love. Julian is a Mermaid reminds us that picture books can make us understand the world differently and better; that they are for everyone. It is a ground-breaking book and has the qualities that Klaus Flugge has alwayschampioned in his own publishing.”
Love, who grew up in Southern California and studied printmaking and illustration at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and then went on to study acting, lives in New York and was unable to be in London to receive the award and £5,000 prize in person. In her absence she had recorded a spirited video message.
In the States the book won the American Library Association 2019 Stonewall Book Award, a prize first presented in 2010 and given annually to English-language children’s books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender experience.
The Klaus Flugge Prize can now be added to this impressive list:
2019—2020 Red Clover Award Nominee
2019 Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards finalist
2019 Ezra Jack Keats Award Honor, Illustrator
Rainbow List Choice – 2019
2019 Stonewall Book Award Winner
ALSC Notable Children’s Books – 2019
Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens – 2019
CCBC Choices 2019 Choice: Picture Books for Young Children
CSMCL Best Books – 2018
Publishers Weekly Best Books – 2018
CPL Best Books, Picture Books – 2018
Kirkus Best Books, Picture Books – 2018
NYPL Best Books for Kids – 2018
NPR’s Book Concierge – 2018
School Library Journal Best Books – 2018
BCCB Blue Ribbons – 2018
Horn Book Fanfare – 2018
Alongside Anthony Browne, the other Klaus Flugge judges this year were:
- Derek Brazell of the Association of Illustrators
- BillieJo Carlisle of Seven Stories bookshop
- Farrah Serroukh of CLPE
- 2018 Klaus Flugge Prize winner Kate MilnerJulia Eccleshare, director of the Children’s Programme at the Hay Festival, acted as Chair.