Eva Eland has won the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. She won for her book When Sadness Comes to Call (Andersen Press), in which a young child opens the door to an unexpected visitor, Sadness, personified as a semi-transparent amorphous shape. As the two spend time together, the child comes to know and understand Sadness, and then one day wakes up to find the visitor has left. Described by the judges as “a masterpiece of minimalism”, it is a sensitive and profound exploration of a complex emotion in a story that will speak to every child, no matter how young.
Eva Eland grew up in Delft, Netherlands. She studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the School of Visual Arts in New York as well as at the Cambridge School of Art, where she received a distinction in children’s book illustration. She started working on the book while on the prestigious Cambridge MA course and originally planned to feature other ‘difficult emotions’ such as anger and fear. However, she says: “Sadness was the one that most resonated with me, as it’s a feeling that has frequently visited me since childhood, and one that has become very familiar, almost like an old friend.”
Judge and winner of the 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize, Jessica Love says: “This book is profound in its simplicity. There isn’t a single line that Eva Eland puts down that doesn’t tell the truth. Perfect.”
Now in its fifth year, 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.
Receiving the prize, Eva Eland said: “When Sadness Comes to Call started as a personal exploration of difficult emotions in images and text during my studies at the MA Children’s Book Illustration in Cambridge and when I took my first version of this book to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, displayed on the stand of the Cambridge School of Art, I thought I had made something very peculiar and niche and had very little expectations of getting any serious interest. So when Andersen Press approached me and wanted to publish the book, I could hardly believe it. I didn’t think I was ready at all to publish my debut book as I was still studying and learning a lot, but I was gently reminded by my tutors that this was a great opportunity I shouldn’t let pass – and working with my publisher has been a wonderful, uplifting experience. To be shortlisted for the Klaus Flugge Prize was such a delightful surprise and a huge honour, and now I’ve learned I won the award as well! It’s very encouraging to receive recognition like this and it will also help me to dedicate more resources to developing my work further. And I can’t help but smile at the fact that this often unwanted guest, called sadness, is now finding its way and being welcomed by so many more people and children, with a little help from my book and the Klaus Flugge Prize.”
The judges also chose to award Highly Commended to Sabina Radeva for her book, On the Origin of Species, an illustrated retelling of Darwin’s famous book.
Chair of the judges, Julia Eccleshare said: “The Klaus Flugge Prize puts picture book illustration and illustrators into the spotlight and, in its fifth year, we were particularly excited by the standard of books submitted and by the talent and ambition demonstrated by the shortlisted illustrators. When Sadness Comes to Call stands out, however. It is very much a book for today when so many children will be experiencing sadness, struggling to understand why and how to express themselves. Yet it also has the makings of a classic, a perfect meeting of intention and delivery, and an example of how much picture books can do. We are also delighted to highlight On the Origin of Species, another outstanding picture book and a very different example of how illustration can successfully convey complex ideas clearly and with beauty.”
The announcement was made on the evening of Wednesday 16 September. Eva Eland wins £5,000.