Marta Palazzesi and Lynda Mullaly Hunt receive the fifth Strega awards for young readers in Italy. We welcome guest blogger Johanna McCalmont to tell us more.
On 6 May 2020, the Strega Ragazze e Ragazzi, part of the broader family of Strega Awards celebrating contemporary literature published in Italian, announced the winners live via the Repubblica newspaper website as part of the virtual Bologna Children’s Book Fair programme. This annual prize focuses on books for readers in two age categories, 6 – 10 years and 11 – 15 years, and was first launched five years ago to mark the 70th anniversary of the original Premio Strega. It was created to encourage children and teenagers to read and aims to foster a life-long passion for discussing and judging books.
Over 2,000 children and teenagers from more than 140 schools, book clubs and libraries in Italy and abroad (Brussels, Madrid, Monaco, Paris, Vienna and Zuich) voted on the shortlists prepared by the prize committee, completing their work from home during the lockdown.
The young judges read and assessed the shortlists that included stories originally written in Italian as well as books translated from other languages. Each shortlist contained five titles selected from over 50 submissions in each category.
6+ Category Finalists
- Daniela Carucci, Ruggiti, illustrated by Giulia Torelli, Sinnos
- Timothée De Fombelle, Capitano Rosalie, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, Translated by Maria Bastanzetti, Mondadori
- Susie Morgenstern, Vuoi essere mia amica?, illustrated by Claude K. Dubois, translated by Maria Bastanzetti, Babalibri
- Marta Palazzesi, Nebbia, Il Castoro
- Guido Quarzo, Anna Vivarelli, La danza delle rane, illustrated by Silvia Mauri, Editoriale Scienza
11+ Category Finalists
- Annelise Heurtier, L’età dei sogni, translated by Ilaria Piperno, Gallucci
- Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Una per i Murphy, translated by Sante Bandirali, Uovonero
- Raffaella Romagnolo, Respira con me, Pelledoca Editore
- Rebecca Stead, L’amore sconosciuto, translated by Claudia Valentini, Terre di Mezzo
- Florence Thinard, Meno male che il tempo era bello, illustrated by Veronica Truttero, translated by Sara Saorin, Camelozampa
Marta Palazzessi won the 6+ category with Nebbia (Il Castoro), a 159-page novel set in London in 1880. Thirteen-year-old Clay is a mudlark, one of those boys who live in huts along the Thames, selling whatever they can find in the mudbanks along the river. One day a circus arrives and Clay simply has to go and check it out. Caught nosing around by Ollie, the fortune teller’s grandson, Clay is taken to the wolf’s cage, the last surviving example of the species in the United Kingdom. Nebbia, or Mist, as Clay names him, is fierce, angry and impossible to tame. Something sparks deep within Clay and from that moment on he does everything he can, with help from Ollie, to free the animal.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt received the award for the 11+ category for the Italian edition of One for the Murphys translated by Sante Bandirali and published by Uovonero. Carly Conners comes from Las Vegas where it’s not the done thing to cry. However, when she finds herself in hospital, covered in bruises with her Mum in a coma in the room next door, Carley gives up trying to fight what happens next: foster care in a family she’s never met in Connecticut. The Murphys look like they’ve come straight out of a TV ad: tidy, kind, perfect … plastic. However, the place that initially feels like a prison slowly becomes a home. Do happy families really exist? Perhaps all you need is enough courage to scratch the surface, to overcome your own fear, and finally take control of your own destiny.
Young jury members were also invited to take part in a competition supported by BPER Banca by showcasing their work behind the scenes. Primary schools competed for €1,000 by submitting short videos of creative reading activities both in the classroom and at home during lockdown, whilst secondary school pupils submitted book reviews of their chosen winners for a chance to win €500. The IC Carano Mazzini di Gioia del Colle in Bari won the primary school category and Lorenzo Marcis from the Liceo Scientifico Pacinotti in Cagliari won the secondary school category. Videos of creative reading activities by the winning school and several others are available on the Strega Prize YouTube channel along with posts from young BookTubers. Translator Sante Bandirali also received recognition for his translation of One for the Murphys.
Over the years, the Strega Prize has sensed the need the young generation has to play an active role in the world today by drawing adults’ attention to the environment, culture and mutual respect. With this prize the Premio Strega Ragazze e Ragazzi gives a voice to these young readers.
More information about all the Strega Prizes, including social media accounts, is available in Italian here. Follow the Premio Strega Giovani site for more information on what older teenage readers aged 16 and up think about Italian literature aimed at adults. And don’t forget to check out the previous post on the WorldKidLit blog if you missed the virtual Bologna Childrens’ Book Fair.
Johanna McCalmont is freelance translator and conference interpreter from Northern Ireland who is currently based in Brussels, Belgium. She works from French, German, Dutch and Italian into English. She was selected for the 2018 New Books in German Emerging Translators programme. Her work has also been featured in No Man’s Land. You can follow her on Twitter @jo_mccalmont