A Ceremony Full of Warmth and Joy

An audience of more than a thousand people was in attendance to see Katherine Paterson receive this year's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award at Skansen's open-air Solliden stage in Stockholm. Three flags were flying that chilly evening, the Swedish flag, the Stars and Stripes and the special ALMA flag, with its pictures of well-known characters from Astrid Lindgren's books.

Shivering under red blankets, the audience was nonetheless highly appreciative of the entertainment provided by Georg Riedel, Snook, Brolle, Lisa Nilsson and others. Sweden's Minister for Culture, Leif Pagrotsky, spoke warmly about how Astrid Lindgren had given all of us new eyes and taught children how to cope with life. He spoke too of 2007, in Sweden designated the Year of Children's Culture, when children will be the centre of attention and the Swedish concept of quality will set an example to the world.

Crown Princess Victoria handed over the splendid diploma, drawn by Inger Rydén and with calligraphy by Annicka Rücker, and enjoyed a few words on the stage with Katherine Paterson with the microphones turned off.

In her exemplary acceptance speech, Katherine Paterson compared herself with Tommy and Annika as they stood outside the Villa Villekulla, unaware of how much their lives were about to change when Pippi Longstocking moved in. She had no idea how much her own life was about to change that morning in March when the chairman of the award jury, Larry Lempert, called and woke her up to tell her she was the recipient of this year's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. In her home country and elsewhere, people think it is a unique act of generosity to award so much money to someone who writes children's books.

"In Sweden you doggedly persist in saying that children matter, that they need peace and fair treatment. Fear and selfishness are the biggest threats of all to world peace. You have done something fantastic with this award: you have shown that children mean something."