María Jesús Gil

Presentation of the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 2012

Laudatio by María Jesús Gil

President of the Hans Christian Andersen Award Jury 2012

Mr. President, Distinguished Laureates, Most valued Hosts and Sponsors, Esteemed Guests:

As the President of the 2012  Hans Christian Andersen Awards Jury, I am very proud to be here, in London, to introduce the winners of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen medals – María Teresa Andruetto and Peter Sís.

As soon as the Jury selected the winners, I informed to the patron of the Awards, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who has kindly granted me permission to extend Her heartiest congratulations to the two winners today.  I send our gratitude to Her Majesty for Her patronage of these awards.

I would also like to express my gratitude to this year's Jury that I have had the honour to preside. Working with these ten distinguished experts in literature for children from five continents, has been an extraordinary experience for me. Many of them are with us this evening. Allow me to recognize them and their fantastic job.

Please, stand up if you are here:

  • Anastasia Arkhipova from Russia.
  • Françoise Ballanger from France.
  • Ernest Bond from USA.
  • Sabine Fuchs from Austria.
  • Ayfer Gürdal Ünal from Turkey.
  • Jan Hansson from Sweden.
  • Eva Kaliskami from Greece.
  • Nora Lía Sormani from Argentina.
  • Sahar Tarhandeh from Iran.
  • Regina Zilberman from Brazil.


Elda Nogueira, representing IBBY and IBBY Executive Director Liz Page also attended as ex officio non-voting Jury members.

As President of this Jury I want to express my gratitude all of them.

The Jury spent more than nine months studying the books and dossiers of 57 (fifty seven) candidates nominated from 32 (thirty two) countries. In behalf of IBBY, I thank you for your dedication.

Furthermore, I would especially like to thank Mr Kang, the CEO of Nami Island Inc., the sponsor of the Hans Christian Andersen Awards, for the generous support of this the most prestigious award given to the creators of children's literature.  I thank him also for his inspiring words that he just shared with us.

I also warmly welcome the Minn family who are here from Nami Island.

And now, in the name of IBBY and of Jury, it is my privilege and pleasure to briefly introduce you to our 2012  (twenty twelve) winners whom we are honouring this evening.

It is very easy to say: “briefly introduce”. But, in fact, it is a hard, almost impossible challenge. How to reduce to five or six minutes the enormous work of our talented winners, two artists of the stature of María Teresa Andruetto and Peter Sís?

However, let me make the attempt, relying on the indulgence of the winners.

Both of them have in common an ability that is very deep, sincere, and intelligent.

Both of them have lived through great difficulties during their lives.

Maria Teresa Andruetto experienced the consequences of the military dictatorship in Argentina.

Peter Sís was born in the former Czechoslovakia – on the Red side – the Communist side – of the Iron Curtain.

However, they have overcome all the difficulties in their paths and, through their work have, by making an ever-lasting contribution to children's literature, given children and adults the message that we must aim for a better world.

The winner of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for writing is María Teresa Andruetto from Argentina.

María Teresa Andruetto wasborn in Arroyo Cabral, Córdoba, Argentina.

She is the daughter of an Italian immigrant who arrived in Argentina after the Second World War, but she did not begin to write until the end of the military dictatorship in Argentina.

She writes without having in mind if her books are for children or for adults. In her book Hacia una literatura sin adjetivos/ Towards a literature without adjectives she asks herself:  “To write for children or just to write?"

In the same book she says: “A writer is a person whose more pure pleasure is to find among thousand of words, the words.”

The building of individual and social identities, the female universe, the after-effects of the dictatorship in her country – all written with a deep, rich, poetic language – are some of the central themes in her work. And about life as a journey: to look far away for what maybe is close by.

We can find all these key elements, this theme, this strong sense of communication between the writer and the reader, in Stefano: one of her best-known novels.  In Stefano we find many of the topics that María Teresa frequently writes deeply about – the journey, migration, poverty, solidarity, inner worlds, injustice, love, violence and poetical affairs – with a very high and rich language.

Because these universal themes her books broke generational barriers and are read by both young people and adults.

The Jury wishes to recognize the talent of María Teresa Andruetto with this year's award for writing.  Thus, honouring her mastery in creating unique and sensitive books, which are deep and poetic, and for being an outstanding artist with words.

The winner of the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for illustration is Peter Sís from the Czech Republic.

Peter Sís is an illustrator, filmmaker, painter and author.

He was born in 1949 in Brno, in the former Czechoslovakia and grew up in Prague.  In 1982 he was working in the USA when the Soviet Union ordered him back to Prague – he declined to go and consequently he could not go home. 

His books are extraordinary for the way they demonstrate how words and art work together to communicate with the readers through well- documented and extraordinary original stories: to transmit the emotion and the excitement of discovery.

He is a master in expressing the deepest emotions through his detailed images and texts, while dealing with universal subjects and so captivating both children and adults from all countries.

I would like to read the final sentence from Peter's afterword from the picture book:

The Wall: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain

He tells us about the oppressive environment, the lack of freedom of expression and government censorship in the Communist Czechoslovakia:

“The wall which for many years divided Berlin and the whole Europe is now, fortunately, only a memory.  But some memories need to be preserved. As a message about the past. As a warning to the future. Even though one wall has fallen, others remain and more are being built. All over the world. In Israel, Korea or on the Mexican border. Symbolic walls, ideological walls and real walls. Walls of fear, confinement and suspicion. Walls without which our lives could be freer and happier.”

The Jury appreciated Peter Sís' extraordinary originality and versatility as he engages his powerful imagination to create a complex and intricate visual language through the different layouts, artistic techniques and designs that he has especially created for each book, where marvellous surprises delight the reader!  The winner is a master in using watercolours, oil paints, collage, pen-and-ink and many other graphic elements, which he uses to create a personal and unique universe.

María Teresa Andruetto and Peter Sís are both worthy winners of the Awards.

Congratulations to both of them.

Before we go further I would like to invite some of the finalists to the stage to receive their diplomas.  (Bart Moeyart author from Belgium and Roger Mello illustrator from Brazil)

Now it is with great pleasure and a real honour for me to invite the 2012 winners to the podium to receive their diplomas and medals from IBBY President Ahmad Redza Khairuddin, and to address to us with their acceptance speeches.

María Jesús Gil

25 August 2012

33rd IBBY Congress, Imperial College, London, UK