Speech by Katherine Paterson

Award Ceremony 31 May 2006 Skansen, Stockholm
The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2006

Your Royal Highness,
Minister Pagrotsky,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Boys and Girls,

Dear friends: In the early morning of March 15th, I was sleeping away when the telephone beside my bed rang and suddenly my quiet life took an exciting and very unexpected turn. It was like that day when Annika and Tommy Settergren stood idly by their gate, never dreaming that, in a few moments, an outrageous and extraordinary girl with carrot colored braids and patchwork clothing would come out of the gate next door and proceed to take over their lives.

When I compare you, my Swedish friends, to Pippi Longstocking, I have to say that you are not outrageous in the same sense as Pippi, You are all beautifully dressed and your behavior is exemplary. But everyone who is not Swedish seems to agree that to give such a magnificent prize to a writer like me who simply writes stories for children is an outrageous act of generosity.

I hope you realize how extraordinary you are. You have elevated one of us, a woman who wrote stories for children, to the rank of national hero. And when Astrid Lindgren spoke to you of justice and peace, you listened. By instituting this award as a memorial to her, you continue to say to the world that children matter. They deserve peace. They deserve justice. The primary goal of every adult should be to insure that we give our children a world where justice is every person’s birthright, a world where those two great enemies of peace, fear and selfishness, have been laid to rest. You have set an extraordinary example here in Sweden. You have declared in your actions that every child should be able to take the basic necessities of life for granted And with this prize you have said that not only do their physical needs matter, but their intellectual and spiritual needs matter as well.

On behalf of all the children whose nations do not honor them and all the writers and teachers and librarians and parents who feel that the powers-that-be look down on them for working with and for children, I thank you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your extraordinary vision and outrageous generosity.

Katherine Paterson
Katherine Paterson is holding her speech