There is no question that there are great books on the nominee list for the German Youth Literature Prize, which is awarded at a major event at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. The jury – nine experts from universities, education and the media have each selected six titles in the categories of picture books, children’s books, youth books and non-fiction, which they count among the best of the past year.
Many of them make you nod your head: The home-alone adventure story “Ellie & Oleg” (Klett children’s book) by Katja Ludwig is a gem. The comic “Trip mit Tropf” by Josefine Mark (Kibitz) about a rabbit undergoing chemotherapy who goes on a journey with a rough-necked wolf may fit better into the children’s book category, but it is one of the best things to read in youth comics right now gives. The author and illustrator is a cancer patient herself, but tells about the disease with crazy humor and creates wonderful animal characters.
The current return of the themed novel is also illustrated with outstanding works from the youth book category. The verse novel “The Sun, So Bright and Black” does not groan under the many problems that Chantal-Fleur Sandjon describes in it: violence in the family, queerness, racism and is formally very ambitious. “Henny & Ponger” by Nils Mohl is a great outsider story.
Above all, risky and funny is largely missing
And in the field of picture books, the jury was able to draw from the full range: There is the colorful Silent Book “SpinnePLAYS PIANO”, which tells of noises without text by Benjamin Gottwald, the great friendship story “Frank and Bert” by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros, and the wonderfully funny counting book How to Count to One by Caspar Salmon and Matt Hunt. The original animal story “Konrad Kröterich and the search for the loveliest hug” by Oren Lavie and Anke Kuhl is also quite appropriate here.
And yet: Especially in the categories of children’s and non-fiction books, also in youth books, one misses a few highlights of the past book year. Above all, risky and funny things are missing, such as the original “Bosco Rübe races through the year” (mairisch) about the world perception of a three-year-old by Finn-Ole Heinrich and Dita Zipfel or “When Papa’s hair was on vacation” by Jörg Mühle.
In the non-fiction section, the very good expedition book “In the eternal ice!” by Agata Loth-Ignaciuk (text) and Bartłomiej Ignaciuk (illustration), but in retrospect “The Book of Dreck”, also from Gerstenberg Verlag, seems even more worthy of an award because it is more original and memorable.
A look at the selection of the best by the youth jury, which is made up of several reading clubs from bookstores, is almost more interesting. There is, for example, the excellent young adult novel “Feuerbanzen nicht LIEn” by Stefanie Höfler (Beltz & Gelberg) about the question of what it means to be poor. A book that could definitely have appeared in the critics’ nominations. Or the surprising “Future Fairy Tales” by Holly-Jane Rahlens, which transform classic fairy tales into future scenarios.
With all the commendable awareness of the problem that the youth book prize jury shows with their nominations: A little more risk and humor would have done their selection good.